4 minute read

I love email! Shocker, right? Especially in this day and age, that are dominated by social media and instant messengers. I’ve got my reasons for this and I’ve covered them to some extent in the past.

You know what I also love? Playing with various email providers and client applications. Currently I maintain accounts with the following vendors (listed in order of preference):

Funny enough - I’m a paying subscriber to all, even if it’s for different reasons. My main and most favorite provider is Fastmail. I’m paying them because I need the service.1

I like ProtonMail and HEY a lot, but I rarely get any email there. ProtonMail generally makes most sense when you’re communicating with other Proton users, and I guess I don’t have many in my social/professional circles. I do use other Proton services like ProtonVPN and ProtonDrive frequently, and I like the company’s mission a lot, so I consider my subscription there mostly a show of support for a good cause. Same with HEY, where I’m really curious to see the direction in which the service will develop. I have to admit that HEY is the wildest take on email I’ve seen in ages and it’s just so much fun to see what they are going to come up with next. Even if I don’t like some of the concepts there I’m glad to see that someone’s thinking differently and is trying to reshape what using email is all about.

My usage of Gmail is historical and I’ve been winding it down, as I started to value my privacy more in recent years. There’s no doubt that Gmail is a great email service, but I’m no longer comfortable with handing over so much personal data to what’s essentially one giant advertising company. I will soon finally move batsov.com off Google Apps, but I’m still using some services where it’s impossible to change your email address (I’ve got an @gmail.com address that predates the custom domain) and I’ve been pondering if I want to create new accounts with them and lose all my account history.

I never really used iCloud and Outlook, even if I have a pretty fancy iCloud email (firstname at me.com and firstname at icloud.com). I’m pretty sure that in the privacy department they are just as bad as Google and their email services are definitely inferior to Google’s.

Historically I’ve also had accounts with:

  • Random Bulgarian vendors (e.g. my beloved lordbad@developer.bg address)
  • usa.net (I think I had lordbad@programmer.net or something like this there)
  • Yahoo (alexi.stukov@yahoo.net, perhaps my first email account ever)

Admittedly back then the only thing that I cared about was having a “cool” handle. Not to mention that circa 1998 very few people around me were using email at all. IRC and ICQ were all the rage back then. Back to the present.

Of course, the majority of the time these days I’m using custom domains for my email addresses, with batsov.com/net/dev being the primary domains that I use for email purposes. For some reason batsov.net is my most favorite domain.2 As noted above batsov.com is still attached to a legacy Google Apps account, while all other domains that I own are attached to my primary Fastmail account.

Custom domains are essential to avoid email vendor lock-in, so I advise everyone to consider them! One of the biggest mistakes I ever did was to sign up for many services with my @gmail.com account. Now I know better!

You know what’s really crazy, though? I’m still looking for more (privacy-centric) email services to play with, even if I definitely don’t need them and I have no idea what I’d do with them. On my “vendors to try” list I’ve currently have:

On the email clients front I think I’ve used pretty much every client that has been somewhat popular at some point. I’ve spent significant amount of time with:

Finding the right client for a service like Gmail was an exercise in frustration, as some of its features are proprietary and work properly only with its own clients. Same with any vendor who tries to differentiate itself by the pack and introduces non-standard functionality (e.g. undo send). Services like HEY take this to the extreme and can’t be used with standard email clients at all. Eventually I gave up and switched to the policy to use each service’s native clients. On the bright side - this killed my interest in playing with generic clients, so I have more time to waste on vendors!

I think it’s safe to say I’ve got a pretty severe case of email mania, but that’s OK. If you’re passionate about something then I think it’s perfectly fine to invest unreasonable amount of time in it. If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad, right?

P.S. If someone’s a ProtonMail user, please make my day and ping me there (my handle is bbatsov). I’m still waiting for my first end-to-end encrypted email exchange to take place there.

  1. I covered Fastmail in more detail here

  2. See https://batsov.com/articles/2021/11/15/net-forever/