You should own your email too

I’ve been on your back in regards to owning your words for quite sometime, advocating quitting social media, and outlining how I aim to tread that not at all uncomplicated road.

But what about email?

Email is the only truly personal social network out there. It’s not without its problems – spam, tracking pixels, shitty clients, limited inboxes – but it’s also brilliant. While I enjoy a clean (and possibly empty) inbox, I love to see it fill up with emails from interesting people, sometimes in the form of newsletters. If your email provider is decent (by which I mean effective, not not-evil decent) you shouldn’t get too much crap in your inbox, except the things you sign up for, and the unsolicited stuff sent to you by marketers and other cold-emailing creatures. You deal with those (archive it, spam it, delete it, answer to it – whatever), and move on.

Maybe you use Gmail, or Google Apps Suite. You know what this means by now, it’s no secret that your emails are read by a computer, analyzed, and used for ad targeting. In exchange for that, you get a cheap email with your own domain (Suite, which is what I currently use for both and work), or free email (as in properly stalked without your own domain). That’ll make spam a non-issue, because Google truly knows how to handle that stuff.

Maybe you use Fastmail or Protonmail, which – to me – seem less evil in every way. They cost as much as Google Suite, but you get less. Protonmail has a free tier too, but you can’t use your own domain.

Two and three letter Hey email addresses cost extra

Then there’s Hey. So hyped, so clearly trying to be on point and annoying to anyone not buying into their manifesto, but also so interesting. The price point – from $99/year, and you don’t even get your own domain (yet) – will scare people off, because all previously mentioned solutions are cheaper, but that might not necessarily be a bad thing. If Hey gets a decent amount of users paying for their service, they can make something that works. You don’t have to be the biggest player to be the best option. There are other things to compete with than price, and they’re doing a lot of things right – like the “yours forever” promise for example. Also: Hey is made by Basecamp, the project management solution I always want to use but haven’t the past couple of years, despite still recommending it. (Yes, it’s complicated.)

(As a sidenote, I’d like to say that I like the Hey experience, and I did indeed pick up one of their three-letter premium email addresses, despite the somewhat funky business model behind those (you can email me at [email protected] if you like). I’ll give them a proper go as my primary service when I can use my own domain, for now it’s just an interesting concept to me.)

Which brings me to the heart of things.

Email is the centre of all things online. It’s your ID card, the thing that – if it breaks – will fuck everything up for you. So your Facebook account gets hacked, well, that’s a nuisance. You’ll have to change passwords and apologize for all those spam messages your account sent during your Hacked Period. But if you lose your email, you’re screwed, because anything can be password resetted using it, and there’s no way of easily knowing if you’re the one sending those emails as a recipient.

Your email matters for these reasons, but those are just the alarmist ones.

You read your email every day. It’s probably among the first things you do, and the last things you do every day, no matter how unhealthy that is.

Can you even begin to fathom how hard it would be if your Gmail address, the one you’ve used for a decade, suddenly got 30 more days to live, then it’d be gone? Yes, it’s unlikely, but what if? That’s a whole lot of holes in your online presence, from ecommerce to social media, and beyond.

You’d have to change your email.

Maybe you’d have to change it again.

Now let’s say you had your own domain, and your email provider goes out of business. It’s still a nuisance, but it’s a nuisance featuring pointing your domain’s MX records (that’s DNS talk, basically telling the domain where the email server is – and there are some other DNS records too, but let’s get on with it for the sake of the argument) to your new provider. It takes minutes. You might need to save your emails locally, or initiate some sort of import to your new provider using your email client, or whatever, but the point is, your email is intact and alive, mail provider be damned.

And you’re still you, even if you switch from Google Suite to Protonmail, because your email is on your domain – not bobble-head—[email protected] but [email protected]. That doesn’t change just because you changed email provider, just as your mobile phone number doesn’t need to change when changing your provider, account, or plan.

You should own your email address, you really should. Don’t rely on the likes of Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and so on – get your own domain and pay for using it with whatever email provider that works for you. You can always move it, but you’ll still own your address. It’s important, because it’s you, online.

Your online ID, if you will.