On a bit of a whim – a silly tangent off of migrating to a new web host – I resurrected the ‘frozen in time’ copy of my iTools / .Mac / MobileMe HomePage website. You can find it here, for better or worse.
Long before iCloud, iTools was was of Apple’s first forays into web services as we recognise them today. The headlining features were the ability to create an email address (free!) under the @mac.com domain (which I still use to this day!) and an online file storage and sharing system called iDisk, which was the foundation for several other services & tools within the bundle including HomePage and Backup.
Backup wasn’t exclusively tied to iDisk, and I used it (in the later .Mac era) for a couple of years to backup my essential documents to iDisk and my entire computer to a external hard drives and CDs. I think it was my first real backup system…? And I still have all those backups!
I don’t recall that I used iTools, or at least not in any serious way. I was still in high school when it came out (just), going into university, and I recall using my university email address during that time.
If I remember correctly, iTools was pretty well received by actual users but panned critically, with the press and technorati unimpressed by it in light of antecedents like Hotmail (launched three years earlier in 1997) and numerous existing “DIY” website builders and free webhosts (GeoCities!).
There was also some resentment due to its Mac-only nature, although technically most of the services worked through a web browser on any platform, you just couldn’t create an account except on a Mac.
Remember, too, that Mac OS X didn’t exist when iTools launched. It was Mac OS 9 – retroactively named “Classic Mac OS” re. Rosetta etc – and for Mac users the world was a very different place. Once Mac OS X did launch, iTools became even better with integration into the Finder (for iDisk). This was over six years before Dropbox even existed.
Hotmail and lesser known contemporaries pioneered free email, but with tight limits on usage (e.g. only 2 MB of email storage, enough for about two modern spam emails!). .Mac offered 50 MB (upgradable to 2 GB for a fee). This was three years before Gmail was launched, too (at which time the word “unlimited” started to get thrown around, although technically Gmail only offered 1 GB initially).
My old website dates back to at the latest September 2005 when I launched my blog, although I’m pretty sure I’d been using it for quite some time before that (though the Wayback Machine didn’t notice it for three more years, until September 2008 😂).
It took a little bit of effort to get it functioning again – it contained a lot of references to 3rd party resources (Google Adsense & Analytics, Haloscan, etc) that are no longer valid / necessary, as well as to some more intrinsic .Mac HomePage functionality that’s long gone, like iDisk (the early file-sharing functionality a la Dropbox / iCloud Drive). I pruned out most of that for the sake of removing long-dead, broken links & images.
.Mac was a relaunch of iTools – a major version update in technical terms, but also a major departure in that it was no longer free for all Mac users. You now had to buy it! For actual money! And keep paying for it, every year, like a caveman! $100!
I still remember receiving an actual box for .Mac, and I suspect that was when I first really used the service. I think I might have received it through the AUC as part of their scholarship program which effectively launched my career, lining me up to work at Apple, move to California, and all the rest.
As for .Mac, it was somewhat ill-received, and despite Apple bragging about receiving 100,000 sign-ups, the general attitude was that it was too little for too much. It didn’t help that it then went years without much improvement or attention from Apple.
The name was a bit weird, too – clearly playing on the .com TLD, but in an era long before the expansion of TLDs, back when there was basically just .com, .net, .org, and .edu1. It’s interesting that to this day there’s still no .mac TLD (although there is .apple, albeit for no apparent reason since it’s retained by Apple for their exclusive use, and they don’t use it).
Years later, in 2008, it was rebranded and “relaunched” yet again as MobileMe. I for one don’t recall ever having significant issues with MobileMe, but it was widely lambasted for being unreliable. I certainly don’t think it was any worse than iCloud (especially in light of macOS Sonoma’s catastrophic embuggering of iCloud Drive).
Incidentally, as part of this trip down memory lane, I also went through and fixed the broken images on my very earliest blog posts, that didn’t originally import into WordPress when I migrated off of MobileMe HomePage in 2012, when the product was shut down by Apple (in favour of iCloud, which was mostly a PR move to distance themselves from perceived reliability problems with MobileMe – notably not an actual improvement in reliability, which to this day remains sorely needed).
- Well, plus .gov and .mil, but regular people never encountered those in everyday life. ↩︎