On Friday, we got a rather nervous tip from reader Julian (echoed in this MacStories post) pointing to his Apple Discussions thread about the future of @mac.com addresses. The thread cited a conversation with an Apple support chat representative that seemed to indicate an imminent end-of-life for the vintage mac.com emails, with all incoming and outgoing mail being forced over to the equivalent me.com address.
Since the mac.com domain predated the July 2008 relaunch of Apple's web services as MobileMe by several years, many subscribers have never bothered to update all the various spots where their mac.com addresses are used, and the prospect of being pushed to do so is obviously a bit worrisome. It's not at all clear, however, that this is actually happening, despite the rather sharp level of anxiety.
Why the agita right now? As with most Apple news nowadays, it begins with the iPhone. In a subtle tweak to iOS 4.2, Apple changed the MobileMe account setup to only allow the me.com address if you're activating your mail account 'fresh' on the device.
While anyone who upgraded from 4.1 or earlier without deleting and reactivating accounts is completely unaffected, trying to set up a mac.com account under MobileMe on a 4.2 iPad or iPhone will always result in the me.com equivalent address being used for inbound and outbound mail. (Keep in mind that you will still get incoming mac.com mail regardless of the account setup, as the two addresses are linked to the same mailbox -- JoeyFatone@mac.com is the same as JoeyFatone@me.com as far as inbound traffic is concerned.)
Apple's tech note on the 4.2 account tweak is clear on the simple workarounds for this change: either set up your account on your Mac/PC and then sync it over in iTunes, or set up your mac.com address as a manual IMAP account on your device. The circumstances, however, led Julian to contact Apple's chat line about the possible implications for desktop email use -- and the thread seen on the discussion site ensued, with a chat rep who apparently was not toting an entire bucketful of clue regarding Apple's mail plans. Indeed, a site host with the handle "Eric W." rapidly responded to say, in essence, "that dude does not know what he is talking about."
While it's technically possible for Apple to turn off authentication and outbound mail service from mac.com addresses, there's no obvious reason for it to do so (and, aside from this possibly misleading chat thread, no evidence that it is doing so anytime soon). Even if that were to happen, it's quite straightforward to send email from a third-party account like Gmail and substitute in the 'From:' address of your mac.com/me.com account.
All that is to say, there's no need to freak out and no cause for panic. If you need mac.com addresses on your iOS device, go ahead and set them up as noted above. If you need to send mail from mac.com on your Mac or PC, then as my people say, "Zay Gezunt" -- you should do so and be healthy. If you're worried about web service accounts or other logins that use your mac.com address, don't be; verification emails and the like will still come into your mailbox.
In fact, the only real challenge with moving from mac.com to me.com (aside from changing business cards, etc.) is for services like Yahoo Groups that require messages to be sent from a particular source address; for those, it's easy to log into your service account and add an alternate email.
We'll inquire with Apple's media relations team, but chances are this particular tempest is not worth spilling any tea over.