Why I Switched from Gmail to my own domain

This is a follow up to my previous post where I went into more detail on how I made the switch from Gmail to email using my own domain. This post will be focused a bit more on the why.

(You can also now find my post on how I picked the host for my email here)

I’ve been growing increasingly uncomfortable lately with a number of the big tech companies, particularly those who’s business model is based on advertising and collecting data about users. A little while back I closed down my personal Facebook account, and I try to avoid Facebook as best I can. The company has not shown itself to be a good steward of our data, and I don’t think Facebook generally is terribly good for society. Every news story about Facebook since I quit has reinforced my feeling that it was the right thing to do.

I also want to distance myself a bit more from Google. I’m not trying to cut Google out of my life completely, the company appears for the most part to be much much better about protecting user data than Facebook, and Google’s products are far more useful and used in my life than anything Facebook ever made. I still use Google Docs for a number of collaborative things, I still talk to friends on Hangouts, and I have some shared calendars in Google Calendar I want to keep being able to use etc. but I want to put a little more distance between myself and the company, and I wanted to take more control for myself. There’s also that thing about being a customer vs being a product that’s always hanging in the back of my mind with free services.

For something as central and fundamental to my online life as email, I want to have a bit more control over it. I’ve long felt a little weird about having something so central to my life ending in gmail.com or yahoo.com or whatever. That makes me much more dependent on those companies, while an email address I own gives me more control.

With an email address I control I can switch providers on the back-end any time I decide I don’t like what a provider is doing, and the rest of the world can keep emailing me at the same address without interruption. No one emailing me has to care what the back end of my email service looks like. They just know to send it to my address. Heck, if I get really paranoid I can start running my own email server and not relying on any other company to actually handle my email (I am almost certainly not going to do this but I could if I wanted to!).

A friend of mine made this same basic transition many years ago and I’ve been thinking about doing it ever since. I’ve mostly been stopped by inertia. But recently I’ve been more and more interested as there’s been more and more news about how tech companies are using our data. I’ve also been inspired a bit by all the Indieweb talk I’ve been exposed to since switching my blogging over to Micro.blog and using micro.blog as my “home base” for social media and writing (I beleive in Indieweb circles this is referred to as POSSE which is a pretty cool acronym for a great idea). It’s made me want to control more of my own life online and be less reliant on any one company or provider.

I finally decided to take the plunge recently, and it’s been a lot easier than I expected. I feel good not relying on anyone else for my email address. It’s something I control and can do whatever I want with. The biggest challenge has perhaps been updating my email address everywhere, but at the same time it’s also been an opportunity to unsubscribe from mailing lists I didn’t really read, and to reevaluate whether I even want to have an account with some companies. I’ve closed down a number of accounts as I started the process of updating my email address. If I haven’t used it in years, it’s probably not something I need. If I do, I can always start up a fresh account with my new email address!

Overall I feel good about my decision and would encourage everyone to consider such a move (it may not be right for everyone, but it’s worth considering!)

Next up is likely likely a post about why I went with FastMail and some of the other alternatives I considered (some of which might be right for you!).

Stephen B @DrOct