Poor boy Apple Dot Mac alternatives

Purchased a new Apple computer lately? Apple recommends supplementing your new purchase with a yearly subscription to their Dot Mac (.Mac) service.

Touting such conveniences as iWeb publishing (no HTML/CSS knowledge necessary), Photocasting (think personal photo broadcasting), iDisk (access files anywhere at anytime or share files with others), Backup (schedule automatic backups offsite or to external media), Groups (communicate and socialize with others), Mail (desktop & web based email access), and Sync (data & preference syncing between machines) what’s not to like? What may not be so enticing for users is the admission cost(s) for such “conveniences”. $99 for single users and $179 for family (up to 5 members) per year. Still sound enticing enough to subscribe and renew on a yearly basis? It very well may be. Fortunately, for the penny pincher in all of us, similar “conveniences” can be achieved for a fraction of the cost… Maybe even free.

Whether or not you can make do without the annual subscription service offered by Apple depends wholly on your willingness to nit-pick through the alternatives. The following article will break-down available solutions based on the specific “conveniences” you wish to retain while saving a little money in the long run.

Staying code-free without iWeb?


Although it is true that iWeb can be used to publish websites without .Mac, issues mary arise due to iWeb’s original intent to be used in conjunction with .Mac.

The solution for creating equally attractive websites without iWeb & .Mac or touching a single line of HTML/CSS? Realmac’s RapidWeaver ($39.95) website creation application. Bundled with a wide assortment of themes (additional themes available for purchase), RapidWeaver provides an intuitive interface for creating web documents including blogs, contact forms, file sharing pages, movie albums, and photo albums [among others] without any prior experience. Furthermore, RapidWeaver bridges the gap between yourself and the internet by bypassing the requirement of an additional FTP application.

Of course, electing to go the RapidWeaver route does require that you seek actual web hosting which can be arranged for as little as $7.95 per month.

Sharing photos without “Photocasting”

Want to share your personal photographs with family & friends online? It’s easy thanks to a wide variety of photo sharing services – both free & paid.


Considered the current de facto photo sharing service, Flickr offers both free & paid-for (annual subscription) account types. Free account holders are entitled to an uploading limit which caps off at 100MB per calendar month + 200 consecutive photos made available for public viewing (older images are never deleted, only hidden from view). An adequate limitation for those few weekend family meets or children’s sporting events. Photos can be organized into Sets (albums) and shared with the general public or select contacts (family & friends). Members who discover that additional upload bandwidth is necessary may want to consider upgrading to a Pro account ($24.95 annually).

Supplement your Flickr experience with the following [optional] desktop utilties: FlickrExport for iPhoto, Flickr plug-in for Aperture, or Gleam.


For those that prefer an even easier photo sharing experience, consider checking out the free BubbleShare service. BubbleShare prides itself in its simplicity to create photo albums to share with contacts. The simplicity is further enhanced thanks to the ability to create shared albums without any type of mandatory registration. Simply title your album, batch upload images, and create an entire album online within minutes.

Free file storage (WebDav) without an iDisk

There’s no arguing the convenience of centralized online file storage. One of the greatest assets of .Mac is the included online storage. Apple’s iDisk is nothing more than a mountable WebDav file system. The convenience of WebDav allows users to mount the iDisk on their desktop like any other storage medium, drag files and documents to be uploaded to Apple servers, and retrieve those very same items from a different machine.


Want the convenience of an online file storage service which offers browser based file management or unofficial WebDav support? Check out Box. Box provides users with 1GB of free (upgrades available) online storage managed and accessed through any web browser thanks to its slick AJAX interface. Upload, manage, and share individual files or complete folders (and their respective contents) from your browser. Box even offers a beautiful Flash widget for your personal website or blog providing visitors with access to download shared files.

Furthermore, Box offers unofficial WebDav support allowing users to mount their Box file account on their Desktops to transfer files to and from while working on any one of their machines. For a complete rundown on how to get WebDav support running on OS X, check out the write-up on UNEASYsilence: Box.net destop for Macs.

Offline file backups without Apple’s Backup 3

The internet is chocked full of tutorials and recommendations for backing up data on OS X. My personal recommendation for backups is SuperDuper. I outlined the steps for creating a bootable backup of your current hardrive using SuperDuper back in September: Practice safe computing, use a clone. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments for additional details.

Sync multiple machines at your leisure

Dot Mac does one thing great – which many current subscribers claim justifies the annual cost – Syncing. Dot Mac offers the option to sync select preferences, data, and settings automatically, at specific intervals, or manually based on your own discretion. Browser bookmarks, Keychain passwords, Mail rules, Address Book entries, iCal events, even select 3rd party applications such as NetNewsWire, Yojimbo, and Transmit provide syncing of data and settings between machines using Apple’s .Mac service. The downside? Only select applications by Apple – Safari, Mail, Address Book, iCal – and a limited number of 3rd party software support the service.

Alternative for keeping multiple machines synced? Check out Econ Technologies ChronoSync which offers an incredible amount of flexibility and power when it comes to syncing machines. Chronosync utilizes “Relative State Monitoring” & data verification for syncing individual files or entire folders.

Even more promising is MildMannered Industries MySync which offers similar functionality to .Mac syncing Bookmarks, Calendars, Contacts, Mail accounts, Rules, and signatures. All done by detecting other MySync nodes (user accounts with MySync installed and enabled) in order to sync data.

For those who utilize browsers other than Safari for their needs, check out Google’s Browser Sync Firefox extension or Camino which offers bookmark syncing via FTP.

What about Mail & Groups?

I trust that the importance of establishing alternatives to Apple’s Mail and Groups service is not an immediate challenge. What with Google’s ever improving Gmail email service and online Groups to supplement hundreds of online forums, it is not at all a challenge to convince yourself to look elsewhere.

Open for additional .Mac alternatives

Aside from creating your own .Mac replacement, what other recommendations might you have? [Digg this]

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Discuss - 56 Comments

  1. Lara says:

    I have a personal domain name through Yahoo, and a .mac account. I cannot seem to be successful at publishing my website (that I built on iweb) to the web. I followed the instrucions I got from my .mac account to go in to my domain host and into my advanced dns settings and in the source field change the www to web.mac.com. Sounded easy enough, however, it’s been 3 weeks and I still am obviously doing something wrong, I can’t seem to figure it out. I am a little unhappy with the fact that there is no “real people” at dot mac for support. Every support phone number leads you to a recording to go to the support website.
    Any help?

    [quote comment=”40587″]I’ve done the same for the past 3 years, and just converted to a Family pack for $129 (HUGE discount) purchased form Amazon as well. I really wanted it for the portability of the email accounts no matter who my home ISP may be. Also – the webmail works behind firewalls so IMAP acocunts are perfect for checking at work or school. What I also really like is it allows for alias accounts (e.g. an account that fwd’s the email to your main account) this way I can use the alias for when I need to give an email account on a website – and never use my main email for web transactions. So when spam comes heavy, just delete the alias, and create a new one to use.

    .Mac is really worth it, even for a single account at $69.00 – thats $5.75 per month for all the features…. a great bargain.

    [quote comment=”38848″]Comparing .mac at $99 is simply incorrect. Every year I buy the .mac box from Amazon at $69 and simply upgrade using that. Never paid $99 for .mac in three years.

    I am sure you can also buy a discounted .mac family box from Amazon. When you compare the close integration of .mac with multiple macs and all the services you need in one place it beats box.net or flickr or what have you. Plus there are no ads. Not sure if these additional services have ads, but if there are ads, then saying they are free is incrorrect as well. You must assign some value to the ads served that generate revenue for the hoster and compare using that figure. Only then will you have a meaningful comparison.

    Still whatever suits each individual is what matters. Not everyone needs backup or iDisk or even web pages.[/quote][/quote]

  2. Derek says:

    Lara I have no experience publishing with iWeb, but would redirecting all traffic that visits your domain name (registered with Yahoo) to your iWeb URL be an option? If so, you should be able to redirect domain traffic through your Yahoo Control Panel.

  3. xero says:

    what do you guys thing about this one for storage


    formaly streamload now mediamax
    I’ve had the premium account for a while and now that I think online storage would be good for backing up my main system files and others I’m thinking that the elite account might be just right! scroll down the page to see all of the other features. Seems like a good deal to me. What do you think?

  4. xero says:

    Actually the only problem I have with them is that there is a limit on the total downloads which you can do per month.. 🙁 unless you only need it for back up and you dont really have to go in and out of it all the time then it may not be a problem.

  5. yoshi says:

    MEDIAMAX don’t do apple and they’ve stopped ftp support unless you use their own ftp software, which is pc only

  6. Amy Frank says:

    Any programs for mac that are similar to Roboform?

  7. Derek says:

    A little off topic from the Dot Mac content but yes, 1Password to answer your question.

  8. Amy Frank says:

    Thank you for the link.
    Agreed, off topic of original article but passwords were mentioned in comments. I read entire article and comments and felt it not entirely inappropriate to ask .

    By providing the link you are helping me…but by mentioning the off topic comment you are letting me and others know of your disapproval. My husband talks like that. If you want to help, why not just help? Why even write…”off topic, but”?

  9. Derek says:

    There is nothing wrong with me saying off-topic. Disapproval would be me deleting a comment.

  10. cong says:

    The biggest reason you sign up for dot mac is accessiblity and usability.
    Example, I work 2 jobs, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I do not have much time at all. for pretty much about anything.
    So here comes dot mac to the rescue, I can create anything w/ iweb, beautifully, and easily and quickly post anything i want on the web, professionally, w/ a few clicks. There you have it, dot mac saves my tons of times !

  11. […] very technical (as here), or Google-centric (as here). In his recap of alternative options, Derek mentions a potential iDisk replacement called Box. Box offer unofficial WebDAV support; WebDAV is the same […]

  12. ken says:

    Hosting: you all have macs.

    Go SysPrefs/Sharing and check Personal Web Sharing.
    Go to http://www.dyndns.com and open an account.
    Go SysPrefs/Network and configure IPv4 Manually.

    Put your website in:
    Hard Disk/Library/Webserver/Documents/

    If you have a router:
    Put the static IP of your computer in DMZ.

    Your computer is now on the wibbly-wobbly-web.

  13. Ken: good tip, except that most people have DSL connections which means that they have a rather slow outgoing connection.
    In other words, when people try to download your site, a picture hosted on your server or something like that, it will take quite some time (at least if the file is big).

    This also requires the computer to be on at all times unless you want your site to be accessible at certain times.
    Other than that, it’s a good tip, even though it will be enough to forward port 80.

  14. Tim says:

    “Of course, electing to go the RapidWeaver route does require that you seek actual web hosting which can be arranged for as little as $7.95 per month.”

    You realize $7.95 per month is basically the same cost as .mac broken down into monthly payments? ($99 / 12 = $8.25 per month) Plus you are getting all the other features of .mac. There is way more value in Apple’s service than they are charging.

  15. Scott Tenant says:

    I’m using http://www.ical-mac.com to publish my iCal calendars online.
    It works great and it’s free.
    If you want you can even decide who can view your published calendars.