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He's Leaving Home(Page) - Bye, Bye!

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Friday morning, at 9 o'clock as my day began, Apple sent me a note that I hoped would say more. It starts,

Over a year ago, we retired the .Mac HomePage application for publishing new pages, but allowed previously published pages to remain viewable on the web. On November 8, 2010, we will discontinue online viewing of photos, movies, and files shared using .Mac HomePage.

This email caused me some consternation. When Apple announced in April 2009 that the HomePage Web application was being discontinued, the company said, "Any pages you've already published will remain live at their current web address for as long as you like" (see ".Mac HomePage Web Application To Be Discontinued," 10 April 2009).

Now, it seems, "as long as you like" actually means "for a few hundred days." Although the latest letter certainly reneges on Apple's previous promise, that is not what concerned me - other than, of course, what it implies about Apple's general trustworthiness.

No, what concerned me is exactly what that letter means to me in very practical terms.

A bit of personal history: I have been a user of MobileMe since it was called "iTools," back in the long-long-ago before-times, when Mac OS 9 still walked the Earth. In the years between then and now, I have created many Web pages, mostly by hand (and mostly using various versions of BBEdit, if you must know), which I stored and served from my iDisk's Sites directory. Although I tried out Apple's HomePage Web application in order to see what it could (and couldn't) do, for the most part I stuck with my hand-tooled page-creation method.

However - and this is where the confusion kicks in - pages that I have created by hand and serve from my iDisk's site directory all have URLs that begin http://homepage.mac.com/lymond/. (Why "lymond"? Long story; see Dorothy Dunnett for more about that fictional character.) In other words, the Web address of an HTML file in my Sites directory on my iDisk is http://homepage.mac.com/lymond/somefile.html.

In some cases, I have pages that present images stored in my iDisk's Pictures folder. In those cases, my HTML code refers to the image file names with relative URLs, such as this one for a cartoon I drew a few years ago: ../Pictures/out_of_the_box.jpg. To parse this path for non-HTML coders, this means "go up from the Sites directory one level, and then drop into the Pictures directory to find the file out_of_the_box.jpg."

Image

So, what does all of this mean in terms of the soon-to-be-an-ex-parrot HomePage service?

Does it mean:

  1. Only those pages created with the HomePage Web application itself are, like the Snark, going to silently steal away come 8 November 2010, and that handcrafted pages in the Sites directory will survive? This is a possibility that makes a certain amount of sense: all of the HomePage-created pages include links and references to various support files - scripts, stylesheets, and graphics - stored elsewhere on Apple's servers. If those support files go away, the HomePage pages, while still living in the iDisk's Site's folder, will, at best, be ugly and, at worst, be so unviewable that your Web browser will shudder in disgust and simply not show anything worth looking at.

  2. The relative positions of iDisk directories, such as the Pictures and Movies directories, to the Sites directory will no longer be valid, and so the relative addressing technique that I used will no longer work? That is also a possibility: what you see in your iDisk on your computer does not necessarily match the actual directory layout on Apple's servers. If so, then my handcrafted pages will survive, but links to media in other iDisk folders won't work. Annoying, but something I can live with and fix.

  3. Does it mean that Web addresses of the form http://homepage.mac.com/lymond/somefile.html will no longer work? If that's the case, it means my handcrafted pages are not just merely, but really most sincerely, dead. This is what I fear the most, and this is what the email from Apple, and its accompanying FAQ, did not explain for me. At least, not this morning at 9 AM.

But things move rapidly in the online world: in the same email Friday morning, Apple concluded with the following statement, "We apologize for any inconvenience this change may cause. For more information, please read this FAQ," linked, when I received it, to Apple's FAQ from last year on the imminent demise of HomePage. However, even as I was drafting this article, Apple updated the FAQ.

Apple's new FAQ on the topic now provides the answer to my questions, and it seems to suggest that question 2, above, and my proposed answer is the correct one. To quote the new, revised FAQ:

Content within the Sites folder of your iDisk will still be available for viewing on the web and can still be edited with an HTML editor. However, any website content stored in the Pictures, Movies, or Public folders of your iDisk will be unavailable in your web pages after November 8, 2010 (although a folder called Pictures within the Sites folder would continue to work). If your web pages reference content from any of those folders, you will need to move the content to your Sites folder and update your HTML accordingly.

And there you have it. If you have handcrafted pages in your Sites folder, no worries (at least until Apple changes the rules again): your site will go on. But, if any of those pages link to media in your Movies or Pictures folders (as a few of my pages do, and as the picture in this article did until I moved it into the new /Sites/Pictures folder that I just created), those pages will no longer show the linked media.

So, if you are one of the few, the proud, the elderly, who still have Web sites at a homepage.mac.com address, you may have to do some site editing and file moving, but your site will not go away. However, if you have been relying upon the kindness of Apple to maintain your old HomePage-created pages following the demise of the HomePage service, you have a month before those pages go into the Dark.

I think I can guess what some of you will be doing over the next few weeks.

 

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Comments about He's Leaving Home(Page) - Bye, Bye!
(Comments are closed.)

Riley P Richardson  2010-10-09 17:47
Apple really blew it with yesterday's inadequate e-mail with a link to an old FAQ. I went to the Genius Bar at the only Apple store in Tucson, and was told (after some bumbling around) that the Web pages in the Sites directory of my iDisk would be gone (or at least inaccessible to Web browsers) after Nov. 8th.

Not liking that answer, I sought help using ExpressLane, where I chatted with "Matthew," who told me the same thing. I pushed him to check with his supervisor, but got the same bad news again.

Finally, I twice tried to set up a call back for MobileMe support under AppleCare, but neither time did anyone call me. Very discouraging, to say the least.

Now, with this timely post from TidBITS announcing the updated FAQ, I'm much relieved to learn that the many, many hours spent building Web pages over several years (mostly using TextWrangler) are not to be wasted. At least for now. Thanks, Michael.
Michael Cohen  2010-10-09 21:49
To be fair, the FAQ was updated within just a few hours of my receiving the email from Apple. That the AppleCare support and Apple store support staff you contacted did not seem to have been given a timely briefing on the changes to the MobileMe service is less excusable.
The big question is why? This is so unnecessary except I'm sure someone at Apple is embarrassed by 10-year-old style sheets from HomePage. We're paying for this, so for Apple to go back on a pledge made just a year ago is ridiculous.
Michael Cohen  2010-10-10 10:03
I can only speculate as to why Apple made this decision, but I doubt that it was out of embarrassment over the style sheets. More likely is that it had something to do with server configuration or, possibly, security issues. Businesses usually make such decisions for business reasons: ones that involve money or liability (which also comes down to money).
.Mac was retired over two years ago and replaced by MobileMe. Surely you folks know that. You've had plenty of time to make the conversion to a far easier, faster, more integrated service.

Let it go. move on.

Michael Cohen  2010-10-10 11:06
That's a little glib. Some people have taken Apple at their word and relied upon the promise that things on their .Mac Web sites wouldn't have to move. They may have built complex Web sites with homepage.mac.com addresses that they used for business or job-related purposes. "Letting it go" and moving on, for them, might present a lot of extra work and costs because of Apple's broken promises.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-10-10 11:40
It makes me wonder if a champion AppleScripter could write code that would rewrite everything to work in the Sites folder. Mount iDisk on the Desktop: move files from Pictures/Movies into Sites and rewrite links to the right Web path.
Michael Cohen  2010-10-10 11:49
In theory, it should be possible to do just that. I'll probably just do a BBEdit search on my pages to find links to ../Pictures and ../Movies and tackle them by hand. However, for larger, more complex sites that make use of those folders, a script might be preferable.
I'm not saying that Apple Computer, Inc is without fault, ere, but this is technology. Things change. I was not happy to have to pay to upgrade to Aperture 3 only months after buying the last upgrade, but the small price was so worth the improvements.

In this case of .Mac>MobileMe, perhaps Apple should set its software developers on the task of creating a cool Migration Assistant for MobileMe. Or someone outside do it and sell it to Apple for distribution. Use this as an opportunity!
I do not think it's unreasonable to expect Apple to provide a conversion/migration tool. Homepage and iWeb are geared to a non-techie home user who paid money (and continues to pay money) for a service. They've had time to figure out something other than "tough luck, sorry for your hard work. Figure out your own way to do it again."
Herb Bowie  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2010-10-11 14:51
Just want to say thanks for having all the same questions and concerns I had, and researching them for me, and providing me with an answer. I'd been scratching my head over Apple's mysterious e-mail for the last couple of days, and your answer has saved me the trouble of having to track one down on my own.
Jane Carter  2010-10-11 17:06
Its still confusing for us older folks.
Sad that Apple did it this way.
I will try to download my stuff like they say, but I dont think its all that easy to recreate our pages.
I do have all my pictures, hope I can deal with the migration,,,,,the keyword is arrggghhh I think. I might just opt out, and go with my own 2 sites. Will see what I can do first,,,,,
Sure wish they had some sort of migration/conversion like you say.

Michael Cohen  2010-10-11 17:26
Jane--

Your pain: I feel it. I can cope with what Apple did, but I rather resent having to do so.
Greg Sutherland  2010-10-11 19:53
I talked to a supervisor at Apple Support who promised to get back to me. I asked him if I could trust Apple any more. I'm now afraid to to spend my time using iWeb. It will probably go away with just one months notice sometime in the near future. He never got back to me with any promises about iWeb.

I have a lot of HomePage standard pages integrated with hand made pages. It took me years to put it together. I was very glad when they said that the pages could continue to be used. As much as I hate that my pages will be lost, I am really concerned that Apple went back on a promise.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-10-11 20:24
It doesn't sound as if your pages will be lost (just the URL). From what Michael writes, you could yourself or with some help just rewrite some internal references and move images and movie files into the Sites folder. Then the page will continue to work, just at a different URL.
This seems to me to be part of a pattern of carelessness and haste on Apple's part. When the new iPod touches came out, the Apple Japan Store advertised the "iPod touc". I emailed them and they changed it after about a week, whether as a result of my mail or not. No lives were lost, but it seems incredible to me that they wouldn't care about misspelling their own product on their own website.
Marvin Shapiro  2010-10-12 05:42
Michael,

Two questions about your article (from a .Mac-for-Dummies reader):

1. If you created your own web pages, why are they referenced with a homepage address, e.g. http://homepage.mac.com/lymond/? How did the "homepage" get in there?

2. I have my hand-created web pages all in the Public folder. I take it that I must move them (and their pictures) to the Sites folder. Is that correct?
Michael Cohen  2010-10-12 08:59
Question #1: That's because, back when HomePage was first introduced, Apple designed it so that the URL "homepage.mac.com/someUser" resolved to the Sites folder on someUser's iDisk.

Question #2: Yes, you should move them there, if you want them to be accessible on the Web. For example, a photo with the filename somePhoto.jpg in the Sites folder on SteveJ's iDisk would be viewable on the Web at

homepage.mac.com/SteveJ/somePhoto.jpg

If you put the photo in a folder named myPhotos that is INSIDE of the Sites folder, the URL would be homepage.mac.com/SteveJ/myPhotos/somePhoto.jpg

(Note that "http://" goes in front of the URLs; but the TidBITS comment system makes my examples live links if I actually do so here.)
Roger Moffat  2010-10-13 08:02
I for one an NOT happy about this. I started with iTools, and have been paying Apple for this ever since paying became necessary. I have several sets of interlinked pages made with HomePage still on my site, still attracting visitors since they show up in Google.

I don't get why it has to go away as it is, quite apart from breaking the promise of last year that they would remain in place, unless the need to stop using folders called Pictures and Movies from the top level of the iDisk are predicated by some upcoming changes to iLife/iDisk/iWhatever, but for Apple to not make this somehow automatic is inexcusable.

That I have to now spend hours trying to figure out just how to recreate these sets of pages is a giant waste of my time.

Apple says to now make MobileMe galleries, but why should I bother with that - they might turn them off next year or the year after. They're going to have different addresses that Google won't know about, and they're going to look different too.
Roger Moffat  2010-10-13 12:33
And from above
"However, any website content stored in the Pictures, Movies, or Public folders of your iDisk will be unavailable in your web pages after November 8, 2010 (although a folder called Pictures within the Sites folder would continue to work). If your web pages reference content from any of those folders, you will need to move the content to your Sites folder and update your HTML accordingly."

Does this mean that we can edit all of the PhotoAlbumxx.html pages to merely change the reference to MY image files (and move the image files) and not worry about all the other stuff that makes a HomePage page work - all the backgrounds, CSS, small images that make up image borders

homepage.mac.com/i/hpti/1/wimg/ModernAlbum/portrait/Wide_Modern_frame_left.gif

for example is one of the elements on this page

http://homepage.mac.com/rogerkiwi/LisaInScotland/Menu54.html

and after Nov 8 it will all still work?
Michael Cohen  2010-10-14 12:32
It has just occurred to me that Apple's Back to the Mac event scheduled later this month, during which many think a new version of iLife will be announced, may have had something to do with Apple's deprecation of HomePage pages. A new iLife could portend a revised iWeb that might conflict with legacy HomePage pages on iDisk. I guess we'll know in a few weeks.
Roger Moffat  2010-10-14 18:10
Yes I suggested that possibility in my post above, but it still doesn't make it any easier to accept or handle. Why would some change to an iLife component HAVE to use a folder called Pictures in such a way that the current folder called Pictures and its contents would become useless?
Bob Whitney  2010-10-19 15:58
Very interesting explanation of the changes and thanks for all the details; but does it make one wonder "how dark it will get under _ALL_ the Cloud computing servers", when their (whomever) owners/service sellers decide to change all their rules? I am only thankful that I can manage all the _essential_ storage in my office.
Michael Cohen  2010-10-19 17:06
That's the thing about living in the cloud: visibility is limited and it's easy to bump into obstacles.
rlmorel  2010-11-12 13:54
This is discouraging. I use my idisk to store images in my Public folder, which I used to access via a url such as http://homepage.mac.com/rlmorel/.Public/filename.jpg, but this doesn't work anymore. I used this to embed images and such in pages I visit, but now I cannot. Has anyone figured out a url that will work for this?