R.I.P., SpyMac

Does anyone remember SpyMac? Several years ago, it used to be a vibrant Mac-centric online community that offered some great free or low-cost alternatives to dot-mac products such as mail and iDisk. SpyMac used to offer free email as well as one gig of online storage (at a time when such things were rare and unheard of). SpyMac was one place online where the Mac force was strong, and attracted Mac fans of every stripe.

I just visited spymac.com today, and was shocked to find it unrecognizable. It has transmogrified into “Leapfrog,” some kind of Web 2.0 social networking and video site, where people can upload their home-made videos and receive payouts. It also boasts of face-to-face chat and post pictures of each other. It seems to be a generic hodge-podge of Youtube, MySpace and Facebook that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Mac. The only vestige that remains from the old, Mac days is the logo.

Digging deeper, I discovered that the old school Mac-centric SpyMac site is still up at classic.spymac.com, but it hasn’t been updated in a long time. If you’re feeling industrious, dedicated or nostalgic, the whole sordid story of what happened to SpyMac can be read in this thread. The beginning of the end was the advent of Leapfrog, summarized in this press release. The long and short of it, as I see it: SpyMac grew too big, too fast; it incorrectly identified the needs of its audience, leading to bad decisions and resources being allocated where they shouldn’t have gone. SpyMac, the site and its services, were down more often, and members stopped visiting the site, and stopped caring. Stuck with a whole bunch of expensive server hardware and infrastructure to service an audience that no longer cared, apparently the site’s owners decided to launch Leapfrog as an attempt to recoup their losses.

The end result: a tragic and ignominious descent into mediocrity. So long, SpyMac; I prefer to think of you as you were, not as you are.