Mac Musings

Links and the Changing Mac Web

Daniel Knight - 2002.07.29 -

"The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Or do they?

Five years ago, when Low End Mac was just starting to get noticed on the Mac Web, there were dozens (and maybe hundreds) of small Mac sites along with a handful of big ones. Most of those sites were less than two years old then, since for most of us the Web didn't exist prior to 1995.

The Web changed everything. Anyone with Internet access, some space, some writing ability, and the ability to cobble together a page in HTML could create a site on anything imaginable. And we did. The Web exploded with diversity in 1997.

Apple was in a tight spot, and a lot of Mac advocates and evangelists dedicated a lot of their spare time into promoting the best computers on the planet. Sites had names like Insanely Great Mac, Mac Junkie, MacKiDo, Right On Mac, Webintosh, and MacSurfer. It seemed like a real community.


"There are two categories of people: Those who divide things into two categories and those who don't."

On the Mac Web, we had (and still have) a lot of different kinds of sites. You can find hardware support, software updates, reviews, commentary, news, benchmarks, advice, pseudo-drama, cartoons, and who knows what else. Low End Mac began with a collection of hardware profiles and has grown into one of the leading commentary sites on the Mac Web.

Still, I do have a few ways of dividing the Mac Web into two categories, such as original content (like LEM) vs. news feeds (such as MacSurfer). Or one I find more interesting - self-sufficient sites and those that link to other Mac sites.

At Low End Mac, we've been linking to interesting and relevant outside content since 1997. We realize that we're not the only site outside of Apple and that many of the other Mac sites have some excellent content. We link to them daily in our "Around the Web" section on our home page.

We interact with a wider community of Mac-related sites, and we appreciate it when other sites do likewise. After all, no site has a monopoly on news, truth, or informed opinion. Diversity is part of thinking different.

Self Sufficiency

Then there are the sites that seem to exist separately from the rest of the Mac Web. Visiting these sites, you'd think that only Apple, their affiliated sites, and a few hardware and software companies existed. Links to the broader Mac Web are almost unknown on sites such as MacCentral.

In MacCentral's case, maybe that's as much due to being a news site as being owned by the same people who publish Macworld and run the Macworld Expo. And maybe that last fact explains why MacCentral, one of the leading sites on the Mac Web, completely ignored the biggest news story in the weeks leading up to the Expo - the last-minute rescinding of press passes to several smaller, independent Mac-related websites. manages to cover Microsoft, but MacCentral remained impassively silent when the trade show run by their parent company mistreated members of the Mac press. And they seem to have been the only Mac "news" site to consider this not worthy of coverage.

Even non-Mac sites such as ZDNet and The Register covered the press pass fiasco, but not "Macworld's News Service" (which is how MacCentral bills itself these days).


MacCentral grew to prominence as an independent Mac news site, and their purchase by IDG (also publishers of MacWeek and Macworld) was seen by many as an affirmation of a job well done. But unlike Slashdot, which managed to retain its independence and integrity when acquired by OSDN, MacCentral changed into something less than it once was.

The old MacCentral never would have ignored the mistreatment of other Mac websites. It was news from any angle - but embarrassing news from the perspective of IDG. So MacCentral conveniently ignored the controversy.


But change can be good, too. The original vision of The New Low End Mac User Site (thankfully shortened to Low End Mac) was to include profiles of every vintage Macintosh right up through the 68040-based Quadras, PowerBooks, and their siblings. Along the way we published an occasional technical article, an editorial, an analysis of developments. Then writers approached us about sharing their content. Before we knew it, we had over a dozen regular writers and changed the focus from hardware to advocacy. has evolved from an ezine (for newbies, that's usually a site that publishes a new edition each month) into a site with new articles a few times a week. Applelinks has gone from being a collection of links into a site with a lot of commentary and some reviews. Gene Steinberg's old website (I can't recall the name) has morphed into Mac Night Owl.


Change can be messy, like when Matt Linton tried to consolidate his sites and several existing sites into a network - at exactly the same time that the dot-com collapse decimated ad revenues for websites. Some sites didn't survive that implosion, while others came through it stronger.

Further, a lack of change can be disastrous. Some of those "link" sites out there list sites that are long gone. See the "Links" category on the SiteLink home page for a lot of examples, such as Macinsites and MacPiCKS.

Another category is "news feed" sites, such as MacMonitor - no original content, no link selection, just news feeds from sites such as I look at them and wonder, "What's the point?" Anyone who wants headlines could go to MacSurfer or Headliner directly.

Still, there's a kind of nostalgia seeing links to Mac Junkie, HolyMac, Mac Simple, and other websites that have come and gone. Nostalgia and sadness, since some good content invariably vanishes forever once these sites go offline.

Unlike libraries, which sometimes have books that have been out of print for decades or even centuries, the Web is a harsh mistress. Once a domain expires or someone forgets to pay the hosting fees, a site could be gone forever.


At Low End Mac, we believe in linking promiscuously. We believe that the nature of the Web is rooted in hyperlinks, so we try to link to the best content we can - and hope others will link to us as well.

I think you can learn as much about a website from links to the outside world as from the site's own content. Both kinds of links help you understand what the publisher finds valuable, so it's a shame when websites that once included outside links stop doing so.

The Best Links

We don't pretend to have the best links on the Mac Web. We cherry pick the ones we like, the ones that fit our focus. And that's part of what make Low End Mac unique.

There are several sites that do a good job of linking to original outside content. Here are my thoughts on them:

MacSurfer's Headline News

I don't know if MacSurfer invented the headline news category on the Mac Web, but they've certainly made the most of it. Beginning around 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time M-F, MacSurfer posts links to content around the Web, around the world, and sometimes not even in English. Site updates may go as late as midnight, and there are usually several updates over the weekend as well. No question about it: MacSurfer has the most comprehensive links to new content on the Mac Web.

My Apple Menu

My Apple Menu goes to the other extreme, posting select links to new content. Featured links include a paragraph to help you understand why you might want to follow the link. My favorite thing about My Apple Menu is that it often finds and links to articles other sources miss.


Launched just over a year ago, MacMinute has quickly become a favorite for offering select links with several updates M-F. I like the links, the way the site looks, and visit several times daily. (Which is also true for the above sites.)


As mentioned above, Applelinks began as a link resource, but morphed into a site with a lot of commentary, especially from John H. Farr and Charles W. Moore. You won't find many outside links on the home page; you'll find a lot in the daily (M-F) New & Notable articles, along with comments about what makes them notable. Another regular visit at LEM headquarters. strikes me as MacSurfer's poorer cousin. It has the same kind of headline links, but sorted by time instead of category. The number of sites links to also seems quite restricted.

Apple Quicklinks

We started our own headline news service, Apple Quicklinks, a few weeks back. We spent the first week tweaking the code to make sure everything worked before the Expo, and we made a few more changes after the Expo. Feedback has been very positive, especially in terms of design and download speed. AQL tries to find a balance between a lot of headline-only links and a few links with long explanations. If you like the link style on the LEM home page, I think you'll like AQL.

I'm sure the above list is far from comprehensive, but if links are the heart of the Web, sites that specialize in linking are the Web's lifeblood (almost 7% of our traffic comes from links on MacSurfer). Low End Mac would never have become what it is today without links from other sites, nor would Low End Mac be the same without linking to resources beyond our site.

A lot of things may change, but links will always be the thing that turns a lot of individual pages and sites into a worldwide web of information.