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Apple’s iCloud is a real memory killer

Another bunch of galleries burned down

Three years ago I had a little rant about how Apple was dumping one of my favourite tools, HomePage. Now Apple is dumping its successor, Gallery. And even though I thought Gallery was a flashy but inferior replacement I’m now getting hot under the collar about its death sentence.

HomePage was Apple’s first cloud-based photo-sharing service, and while it was overly folksy and American in its looks it was leagues above other Internet-based photo-sharing tools.

Apple killed it. And now a hundred of my photo and video galleries look like an art thief just stole all the pictures. That’s a lot of memories wiped out: weddings, birthdays, holidays – you know the really important stuff..

With the magic of HomePage I no longer needed or wanted to print out photos any more. I uploaded them to Apple’s servers. I shared them with friends.

I wasn’t expecting Apple to blow up the service some day. After all, it was just a template-based photo site.

I’m not naïve. I understood that Apple would change the way the site worked and the software that went with it.

But never did I think that Apple would tear down all the photos from it.

Adding insult to injury Apple left the site live, but killed the photos – leaving my photo galleries visible but the actual photos blank in a perfect wasteland.

It's like a neutron bomb hit the site, erasing all forms of life but leaving the structure perfectly intact.

Apple iTools HomePage killed off

Now it’s going to do the same with Gallery. For reasons I spelt out in 2008 I don’t like Gallery anywhere near as much as HomePage but I do use it to share photos with friends and families.

Why? Because it’s better and simpler than all the alternatives. It’s an Apple product. That’s why it works so well.

Not everyone is on Facebook, and I don’t want to be Friends with everyone I’d like to share photos with. And they might not want to be Friends with me.

Yes, there’s Flickr (which I guess I’ll have to move to, even though it’s not as intuitive a viewing experience) and a bunch of other free photo-sharing services but not only did I sign up for iTools/.Mac/MobileMe I actually paid for it for a decade.

That should count for something.

By all means cut off the ability to add new photos but don’t press erase for the memories I’ve placed there.

Apple blithely comments that “If you have a Mac, it is likely that most of your Gallery photos are already in iPhoto”.

Yes, my Gallery photos are all in iPhoto. But my HomePage pictures aren’t. I was using HomePage before Apple released iPhoto – that’s why they’re not in iPhoto.

Many of these are now lost because Apple deleted the contents of my galleries.

And even if I could start again uploading my iPhotos to Flickr or somewhere else (1) I wouldn’t have the time to reload years of photo albums, and (2) the whole point of photo galleries of personal events is their immediacy and the memories translated in captions as well as pictures.

Remember the keynotes where Steve Jobs and co would demo the latest versions of iPhoto with happy, carefree holidays shared with family and friends?

MobileMe Gallery launch Phil Schiller

If those holidays were for real, they’d be dead memories soon, too. (Good job they were just beautiful actors and not Steve and Phil's carefree families.)

iPhoto is part of a product called iLife, for crying out loud (which, I guess, is what I’m doing now in public). In terms of iPhoto and Gallery iCloud becomes iDeath.

That grey cloud in its icon has been nagging at me since I first saw it. Now I understand its portent of doom.

Compare it to the happy, fluffy MobileMe cloud – which looks more likeable?

iCloud vs MobileMe

Apple has every right to change its business focus, and I agree with Steve Jobs that sometimes “focusing means saying no”.

But there’s a big difference between saying “no” and destroying everything your paying customers have lovingly created using your software.

That makes Apple the least trustworthy cloud provider of them all. It now has a long rap sheet on not only on disappointing but blatantly caring nothing for its users.

There’s no doubt that Apple will close iCloud in a year or two, replaced by another slightly less good alternative. Would you trust Apple again with your valuable data?

The precious Digital Shoebox Apple boasted about becomes the Digital Coffin for the memories I stored and shared on Apple’s servers.

Sure I can recreate a bunch of them, but it would never be the same. You just can’t recreate memories like that.

Call me sentimental, but isn’t sentiment what memories are all about.

Of course Apple should look at its products and kill them off when it feels like it. But I do question whether it really needs to destroy what is already in place, and has been paid for many times over.

Why is that old HomePage site still there but the pictures removed? Will the same thing happen to MobileMe’s Gallery pages come July 1, 2012?

Will they look like this? Kind of sad, isn't it?

Apple MobileMe gallery blank

If it’s just to save the hosting money I suggest Apple spends what can only be the smallest of change to keep our photos there, as well. How many billions is Apple worth these days? Would it be too much to ask for Apple to keep these memories alive?

One of the joys of Apple’s consumer products used to be the personal, sharing stuff – HomePage, Gallery, iWeb, iPhoto, iMovie…

These are the things that move us and bond us with others – that share emotions. This is the core subject of so many a Steve Jobs keynote.

iCloud keeps the dull but useful stuff – Mail, Contacts, Calendar and Bookmarks – but kills the more creative iWeb publishing and Gallery.

Where’s the personal touch that was always a hallmark of a Steve Jobs iLife demo?

Instead iCloud features Photo Stream. When you take a photo on an iOS device or import a photo from your camera to your computer iCloud “automatically sends a copy of the photo over Wi-Fi to the Photos app on your iOS devices, iPhoto on your Mac, the Pictures Library on your PC, and the Photo Stream album on your Apple TV”.

Apple says users can “show off your shots to friends and family from whichever device you’re using at the time”.

In its homely marketing speak it describes Photo Stream as “One thousand of your latest photos. With you all the time.”

But they’re with you and your iOS device. You have to show people your photos in person – with your computing device, not theirs.

HomePage and Gallery were wonderful photo-sharing tools. You could lovingly create your gallery, add captions, and email the results anywhere in the world in minutes.

I and hundreds of thousands of other Apple customers did just that with holiday snaps, family gatherings, children’s parties, get togethers, special events, and precious moments in time.

Photo Stream requires you to either physically take the device to the person you want to show the pictures to, invite them round your house to watch on Apple TV, or send the snaps to your computer and upload them via Yahoo’s Flickr or Facebook, if those people have Facebook accounts.

Sharing video? Now you must invite everyone round to your house or burn hundreds of DVDs. Or post everything to YouTube, which a lot of people think too public (even though there are privacy settings).

Photos on Flickr (and some on Facebook for friends), videos on Vimeo or YouTube, email on iCloud or Gmail, web hosting on any number of providers. All possible, but MobileMe meant you could do everything in one neat, friendly place – with one password and one intuitive interface. Now it’s iCloud and all the rest.

It’s not elegant. It’s not personal. And, in my opinion, it’s not Apple.

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