Forget market share: If you want to gauge the enduring vitality of the Mac, just take a look at the wellspring of Web sites focused on Apple Computer and its computing platform.
Mac-focused sites were early arrivals among the current range of technology-driven Internet offerings, and their growing numbers play a key role in setting the Mac discourse. As a sometime participant in the Mac Web, I know firsthand its power to inform (and inflame) the user community—and sometimes to draw a spirited response from Apple, whose ongoing effort to limit the spread of unauthorized Mac information has itself become the topic of lively Internet debate.
But while image-conscious Apple may want to impose a unified vision of the Mac community, these sites tell a different story.
These sites embrace a range of visitors, from enterprise-class pros to entry-level consumers. Theyve featured give-and-take between old-school Classic Mac curmudgeons and a new wave of users weaned on Mac OS X. Theyve even invited political debate, as when former Vice President Albert Gore joined Apples board or talk-radio personality Rush Limbaugh came out in favor of the Mac. And of course, theyve provided insights (some authorized, some not) into the functions (or malfunctions) of Mac products from Apple and third parties.
Heres a short starter set of online resources that sample this range of Mac thought. Caveats: To set myself some limits on this first take, Im going to focus on sites that cater to the professional market and on U.S. readers; Im also going to steer clear of extensions to professional print brands like Macworld and MacAddict. Finally, Im going to focus on sites that I regularly visit myself to take the temperature of the Mac market.
However, Im also eager to expand my horizons. I welcome your suggestions for additions to this list, and I plan to update it periodically.
Mac News Aggregators
MacSurfer: The quintessential Mac aggregation site, MacSurfer manages to compile a dizzying list of Mac stories daily from around the Web. Its virtue is its completeness; by including everything Mac, it often runs multiple versions of the same story, but the subtle differences in spin from site to site can be instructive in themselves.
MacCentral: Another longstanding Mac site, now owned by Mac Publishing LLC, MacCentral does a lot of its own reporting as well as tapping into the current Mac Zeitgeist. While it generally steers clear of unannounced Apple products, MacCentral leverages its connections to Macworld magazine and the IDG News Service to provide a well-rounded mix of Mac news.
MacMinute: The current site of MacCentral founder Stan Flack, MacMinute offers quick takes of Mac press releases and other news around the Web, and sometimes breaks stories of its own.
MacNN: This site also offers quick hits on Mac product news and coverage.
MacSlash: Driven by OSDNs SlashCode, MacSlash features links to current Mac coverage as well as discussion by its participants.
Slashdots Apple News: Slashdots own Apple section has proven wildly popular and offers frequent links to developer-focused items that frequently reflect Mac OS Xs inroads into the Unix and open-source communities.
MacBytes: A worthy aggregator run by MacRumors.
Mac Technical Discussion and Tips
MacFixit: This long-lived site (which was acquired a couple of years ago by TechTracker) offers a wealth of information on updates and compatibility issues. A $24.95 yearly subscription to the Pro version of the site provides access to archives, e-mail alerts, exclusive content and special reports.
MacInTouch: The granddaddy of Mac information sites, MacInTouch is coming up on 10 years of reports on Mac releases and compatibility issues, including feedback from high-end users.
VersionTracker: In addition to Windows and Palm OS software, VersionTracker posts a boatload of Mac OS X and Classic Mac shareware, freeware and commercial releases.
Accelerate Your Mac: Another exhaustive compendium of tips and tricks for getting top performance from current Mac releases.
Ars Technica: The multiplatform Ars Technica has distinguished itself with articulate, in-depth discussions of the Mac platform.
Mac OS X Hints: Just as the name implies, this site is focused on addressing issues concerning Apples current Unix-based OS.
EveryMac.com: Another self-evident moniker; this site provides arcane and chewy details on every Mac model Apple (and its erstwhile clone partners) have released since the platform began.
The Apple Museum: Another exhaustive online resource that reaches even further back into Apple history, with codenames and specs for models since the Apple I.
OGradys PowerPage: Jason OGradys venerable site focuses on news of interest to users of Mac laptops as well as handhelds and cell phones.
Mac Scoops and Rumors
MacRumors: This aggregator has hit upon a winning formula of amassing the wealth of Mac scuttlebutt around the Web; matching up the sometimes conflicting reports; and offering its own spin on the current buzz about whats coming next from Cupertino.
Think Secret: This site has racked up a formidable track record for accurate reporting on whats in the Apple pipeline, as well as from key developers such as Adobe and Microsofts Mac Business Unit.
AppleInsider: While its weathered its share of adversity—and has been known to stumble in accuracy—AppleInsider has delivered some unannounced Mac gems.
MacOSRumors: The first independent site to challenge Mac the Knife at my lamented old alma mater MacWEEK. MacOSRumors has been known to post some howlers, but it sometimes renders up interesting, unannounced nuggets.
Mac Discussion and Commentary
MacEdition: This site offers a range of intelligent commentary on issues of interest to the professional market, with an emphasis on content creation and the Web.
The Mac Observer: Lots of Mac-related offlinks, along with the sites take on each as well as user comments. Also notable for its Apple Death Knell Counter, a tongue-in-cheek effort to track how many times the media has pronounced Apple doomed.
Your Mac Life: A QuickTime-driven Internet talk show about the Mac that goes live each Wednesday at 5:30 to 8 p.m. Pacific time.
As the Apple Turns: After an understandable slowdown as founder Jack Miller came to terms with the demands of new fatherhood, AtAT has resumed churning out a roiling stream of witty commentary on the latest Mac buzz. The site has even been known to bust out a Mac scoop or two.
Crazy Apple Rumors: And if your taste runs to postmodern meta-commentary, this is a site that produces consistently funny, topical satire of the online grapevines fascination with the inside dish from Cupertino. What further proof do you need that the Mac Web has become an institution unto itself?
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Mac veteran Matthew Rothenberg is managing editor of Ziff Davis Internet.