How MyMac almost became eWorld

On April 1, 1998, in Opinion, by Tim Robertson

 

The quest began before I everrealized there was a quest. When the first issue of My Mac was released, the name “My Mac” was really nothing more than a filler. The whole issue (which would now fill two or three pages of a current issue) was completely written and ready for uploading, but I had no name.

For three days, I conjured up every Mac-ish name I could think of. A few candidates were “New Mac Order” and “Digital Mac”. But really none of these seemed to fit. The magazine, at that point, was not really a magazine at all. It was more or less a little something I came up with to pass the time, share my thoughts on some shareware, and perhaps give some helpful hints to other Mac users. I had no idea at the time that eventually my efforts would grow to the state it is today.

The title “My Mac” was one I was never really pleased with. In fact, the name did not really grow on me until six months or so ago. Meaning, of course, that in two and a half years of publishing, I was never happy with the name of my own magazine (“my own” only in that I created it and own the name. The staff “owns” My Mac just as much as I do in creativity. Without them, there would be no “My Mac“. Okay, I will move on now). So in two and a half years, I was still searching for a new title.

It had been a hot day, which turned into a very warm night, and I was tired. I was thinking of the upcoming house call I was heading to. As a Macintosh consultant, I was always visiting clients at odd hours, usually in the evening when they were home. There were a few businesses
that I would visit in daylight hours, but those were few and far between. So it was on this particular night that inspiration would bloom, and a new name for the magazine would present itself.

The client, Bruce, asked me to “clean up his Mac”. By this, he meant that his hard drive was full of stuff and he really did not know what he should toss out, what he should keep, or even what some of the things were. Every time Bruce downloaded something from the Internet, he
would keep both the .sit and hqx. files. Bruce had owned his Mac for a few years, but he was completely ignorant of even the most rudimentary skills. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice guy, but he couldn’t find his way out of a broom closet with a map.

So there I sat, deleting file after file on Bruce’s computer. I was also explaining why and what I was getting rid of, so that he would know in the future and could do it himself, thus saving $35 an hour (not that I don’t like or need the money, but he was paying so he could learn.)

“I never use that one. Should we get rid of it?” he asked, pointing to one icon after another, when inspiration hit. “What is eWorld, anyway?”

eWorld. The now defunct online service for Mac users. Unlike America Online, who seemed to have an anti-Mac policy, or any of the other myriad online services at the time, eWorld was a Macintosh-only online service run by Apple Computer. Alas, no good thing ever seems to last, and eWorld was no exception. While I myself used the service, at the time I found America Online had more content, more members, and more of everything else I wanted. I stayed with eWorld to the end, but I was not really all that broken up to see them go. It was later, when all the problems with AOL started, that I realized just how much I really enjoyed eWorld. The feeling of community was much more profound on eWorld. You really did feel welcome when you signed on. eWorld was a bright spot in a dark online world.

But here I sat, explaining to Bruce why he did not need the software cluttering up his hard drive, and I realized something. My newfound feelings toward eWorld were very much the same feeling I felt thinking about my own magazine, My Mac. And here I sat all this time, trying to come up with a great magazine name that Mac users could identify with, and here was just such a name, going completely unused.

The next day, I spent an hour on hold with one department after another with Apple. As I moved up the food chain, each person I spoke with told me the same thing. “I am not sure who you would want to talk to. I don’t think we have any plans for that name, so they may let you have it, or use it.”

“They” finally turned out to be Paul Carmichael, who was very helpful and full of great ideas. When Paul and I first talked on the phone, he notified me that quite a few businesses had contacted Apple about buying the name for their own use. Each time, Apple had refused, even when offered a nice licensing fee. While this was somewhat discouraging, Paul was nonetheless honest with me as well as being very helpful when I explained what “My Mac” was and what I intended to use the eWorld name for. Paul was not very familiar with a purely digital magazine, but after viewing our Web site, he was quite comfortable about taking my request to the next level.

Weeks had gone by, with no word. I was beginning to worry, and wonder if perhaps Paul had forgotten. This was at the time Apple was in the midst of laying of thousands of employees. Could Paul have fallen victim to corporate downsizing? Were my plans for the eWorld name change now lost in limbo? As despair set in, I finally received the following email from Paul:

Subject: Re: eWorld & My Mac Magazine

Date: Wed, 1 Oct 97 08:32:37 -0700

From: Paul Carmichael iplaw@apple.com

To: publisher@mymac.com

Tim, it is taking longer to come up with a response to your request than I anticipated. Simply do to the pressure of other matters. If we were to proceed, and the decision has not been made to do so, it would likely be a license type arrangement with the ability of Apple to cancel on reasonable notice with minimal payments consistent with our transaction and registration costs. Would this make sense from your standpoint?

Paul Carmichael

I was overjoyed to see this email, and had renewed hope. Obviously, with the nature of the proposal, I was not too optimistic that we could come to an agreement. After all, they had not decided to part with the name. And Paul was now talking about a licensing agreement. Looking at the date of the above email, many of you will remember that it was during this time Apple was doing away with the Macintosh clones, meaning getting a license from Apple was no easy task.

Then there was the matter of the fee. While I didn’t expect Apple to give me rights to use the eWorld name without some kind of remuneration, the big question in my mind was how much they would ask for. The “minimum” payment that Paul mentioned may well have been far out of my reach.

A few more weeks past by, with no further word from Paul. Then one day while getting my Mac news fix on Macintosh, I read a small blurb that said “Paul Carmichael, of Apple, has retired.” The bottom had fallen out, and I did not even see it coming.

A few desperate calls later, and I was finally put in contact with Barbara Dunn, who was now handling the whole “My Mac/eWorld” thing. Once again, like Paul, Barbara was very warm and helpful. She was aware of my prior correspondence with Paul, and was in fact in the process of making some progress on the deal.

Weeks go by, and no word. Steve Jobs was now acting head honcho at Apple, and I was afraid that the request may have headed his way. If it had, I figured, there was no way I would get eWorld. So I decided to write a nice, long letter to Steve Jobs myself, explaining what had gone on before, where we were at, and why I wanted to use the eWorld name.

I really did not know what to expect after I sent the letter. I also decided that I should not have sent it, as I had been dealing with Barbara in this matter, and felt badly about going over her head. How would I feel if someone did that to me? I was stupid, I thought, writing to Steve Jobs about this, as if he didn’t already have enough on his plate. Besides, I could not get over the feeling that I had somehow betrayed the talks I was already in with Barbara.

I was not really expecting a reply from Steve Jobs. Perhaps he would have a secretary reply, or kick it back down to Barbara to deal with. But to my surprise, the very next day, Steve Jobs had written me back. He thanked me for all the nice things I had said (Yes, I was sucking up some in my letter) and that after careful thought, Apple did not want to sell the eWorld name.

Sell the name?!?” I yelled at my computer. “We were talking about a license agreement!” I had blown it, I figured. All done, last one out turn off the lights, end of hopes and dreams. I was crushed, mad at myself, and not a little disappointed. I felt I had come so close, could almost see the eWorld logo rather than the My Mac one, and now it was all gone with one simple email.

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid! I cursed myself over and over for a week. Then, once again to my surprise, I received a FedEx from Apple Computer to My Mac Productions. Business-sized envelope. The term “Legal Papers enclosed” on the front. Chills ran up my spin and back down again. What could it be? Who had sent it?

The first thing I saw as I ripped open the cardboard envelope was the top of the first page: “eWorld Licensing Agreement.”

It was mine. All I had to do was sign the paper, send them some cash (not a huge figure) and My Mac would become eWorld. We would have exclusive rights to the logo, the artwork, the URL, and more. Everything was spelled out, right down to the need for the “e” in eWorld to be in red whenever the word appeared.

What was also in the agreement was the fact that Apple could terminate the agreement anytime they chose to do so (giving fair and ample warning).

I was overjoyed that eWorld could be mine, and that the decision was now in my hands. I don’t know if Steve Jobs had given his okay after the email I received or not, but obviously it was a done deal. Someone had made the agreement! But now the choice was mine, and it was not one I wanted to make by myself.

I turned to those I always trusted: the staff and the some of My Mac’s longest readers. Most of the staff was divided on the subject. And so were the readers I had quietly polled. I was still undecided until I received a letter from a reader whom I know has followed My Mac from our very humble beginnings. He wrote “Everyone will assume you are affiliated with Apple. Worse, can you publish a negative article about Apple without fear that they may revoke the name? Will this take away some of the creative freedom you all enjoy so much? And like I said, you will always be affiliated with a failed Apple experiment. Are you sure that is an image you really want?”

The letter really hit home. Up until this point, I had never really thought of it in quite that way before. All his arguments (and there were more than these) were valid and worth thinking about. Did I want to lose any of the creative freedom I so much enjoy in My Mac? Do I want people to think Apple has some sort of control over us? No, I did not.

So I sat thinking what My Mac means to me. When I first coined the name, it was out of desperation. I had nothing better, and I needed a name. Later, a friend visiting asked me why I called it My Mac. I said “Because I write about my Mac a lot, and the magazine is for people who use their Mac. I want people to see the name “My Mac” and not only think about the magazine, but about their own Macs and what they use them for. We Mac users are passionate about our computers, and “My Mac” is a fitting title”

Later, as I was putting the final touches on that month’s issue, I stopped and looked at the main page. “My Mac” it said. Yeah, it is “My Mac,” and I want to keep it that way. It’s not just mine, but everyone’s. I am not Apple, I am not eWorld. My computer is uniquely mine, and so is this magazine. It is unique. And I want to keep it that way.


Tim Robertson (publisher@mymac.com)

 

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