It pains me to write this post because I'm recommending actions that would make the internet worse in some ways. The beauty of free email services is that everyone can participate, no matter what their income situation. If we move away from those services, we're deepening a type of class system on the internet that is against my core principles.
Email is one of the most personal forms of our communication, yet for most people it's not private.
At the moment, it appears we cannot have free and private email for everyone. If it's free, it probably means someone is scanning/reading your emails and making money off of them somehow. Usually through advertising or tracking your email receipts and selling your transaction data to market researchers. Fun.
If it doesn't seem like a fair trade to you to hand over your personal communications in perpetuity for a free email account, then your only real option is to pay for an email service whose business depends on maintaining your trust, not monetizing the content of your messages.
You could also host your own email server, but that has its own costs and steep learning curve.
While this deepens the division between the people who can afford privacy and the people who can't, I'm hoping that if enough people move in this direction, the market signals will advance privacy for everyone. If there is a way to have free and private email, this will push the market towards that end.
Free email was great to get the majority of internet users comfortable with the concept and the tools. But we've now reached the point where the majority of people can understand the trade-off they're making and hopefully choose a more private route.
- A more private inbox. You still have to trust the email provider that you switch to, but their core business would suffer if they were caught snooping.
- A professional email address. Part of switching to a paid service can include registering your own domain. You can tailor this to your real name or your business, which makes you look more legit than a simple @gmail.com address.
- No ads. You may be seeing ads whenever you check your current inbox. They can be annoying and are probably not providing much value to you.
- Harder for the government to snoop. If you switch to an email service that's located in a country with a history of privacy advocacy, that likely increases the friction for the US government to try and get at your emails.
- Setup is a pain. As you'll see from the post linked below, getting off of free email is a bit of an undertaking. However, I believe it's well worth it.
- Lack of convenience. Gmail is especially easy to use and has great clients that you may have to leave behind. Depending on what service you switch to, you may find it more cumbersome to do your daily email tasks. At least until you get used to it. Although Google itself has a paid service called G Suite if you want to keep all your tools.
- Spam. If you're moving from Gmail, you'll probably experience more spam than you're used to. Improving that will be the subject of future posts.
OK, I'm In, What Next?
I've recently made the switch from Gmail to a paid service, and I've laid out all the steps in this post:
You'll want to bookmark it and carve out some time, maybe a couple of hours, to work through the steps. I'm also standing by to help you through it in case you get stuck.
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