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Apple to surgically remove MobileMe parts

Time called on .Mac

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Parts of Apple's MobileMe service grandfathered in from the company's previous online efforts will be shut down this summer.

The most popular casualty is the .Mac HomePage, the simple-but-useful template-based web-page creation application. According to an Apple email that went out Friday, you will be able to access pages for "as long as you like", but after July 7 you won't be able to edit or add more pages.

The second victim is the less-popular .Mac Groups, a photo, calendar, and file-sharing community feature. Apple has promised to move existing shared files into a new Group Archive folder in a user's current MobileMe account.

More details on the HomePage shutdown can be found on an Apple FAQ. The Groups shutdown has its own Apple-supplied FAQ, as well.

Apple suggests that HomePagers switch to the more-capable iWeb app in Apple's iLife suite ($79, and bundled on all new Macs), and that Groups users switch to MobileMe's Gallery and iDisk for sharing photos and files.

This latest switcheroo is just the latest act in the long-running drama that has been Apple's attempt to deliver online services that are not only popular, but that work as advertised.

Apple introduced .Mac's free predecessor, iTools, at Macworld Expo in San Francisco, California, in January 2000. Among its limited set of features was an early version of the now-doomed HomePage.

At Macworld Expo in New York in July 2002, the online tool suite was renamed .Mac, and beefed up with new capabilities such as support for IMAP (iTools had been POP-only), increased storage space, and a new web-based interface.

Those new goodies came as a price, however: instead of being free as was iTools, .Mac introduced a $99.95-per-year subscription service (iTools users were charged a discounted $49.95 for their first year of .Mac). As might be guessed, the freetard community went ballistic.

Their wrath was felt immediately. Before iTools was killed off, it was reported to have had 2.4 million members. Two months after .Mac was launched, Apple announced that it had acquired just 100,000 subscribers.

Although .Mac had a bit of a rough beginning, its introduction was smooth sailing when compared to its successor, MobileMe, which Apple announced in June 2008. MobileMe went through a painful and embarassing birthing process, but eventually found its sea legs - you can read details of that whole sordid saga here.

Then, according to the ever-reliable O'Grady's PowerPage, Apple sent out notices to .Mac members last year that it would be shutting down .Mac's legacy HomePage and Groups on October 10th - but it didn't happen.

Now, it would appear, the plug-pulling is real. ®

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