Project Reclaim and the email dilemma

One of the main 2011 goals for Project Reclaim is to get my email out of Gmail. Heavy reliance on Gmail raises a number of red flags. For one thing, email is central to my business and personal life online, and provides the best archive of my online past (get the important stuff first). For another, Gmail is ad-supported, in a way that has rankled since Gmail went public: it “reads” your email and serves ads based on what it finds. No one really talks about it anymore, but it still kind of bugs me – so I want to move to a non-free system (paying is better than getting something for free).

It’s taken me a while to make the move, though, for two main reasons.

  1. Email is tricky. Good, free mail server software is easy to find. But it’s not necessarily easy to set up and maintain. If the outgoing server isn’t configured correctly, your messages will get marked as spam. If you haven’t got constantly monitored spam filters on your incoming mail, you’ll be inundated with garbage. And the issues of backups and reliability, while certainly important in the case of (say) self-hosted websites, are many times more important with email: if the server goes down, emails may get altogether lost in the ether.

    I’ve set up and configured email servers before, and it hasn’t been very fun. When deciding how to solve the Gmail conundrum, I needed to take this fact into consideration. I started to do a bit of research on paid email hosting, and found good reviews of Rackspace’s hosted email service. The service is pretty affordable, and I knew from years of Slicehost use (now owned by Rackspace) that customer service and support would be good.

  2. I needed a good address. I own a lot of domain names, but most of them are lame, and none lent themselves very neatly to an email address. For instance, when your domain name is, what’s the email account name? ‘boone’? The cool factor there is pretty low. And I am a cool guy, so that’s important.

    Some of the obvious domains are taken. is wasted on dry-erase boards. could never be wrested from the clutches of “one of the oldest family owned Volvo franchises in the United States”. But there was hope – or should I say había esperanza – that I might get the fairly unused In fact, my brother and I had been working on that project for a couple of years, but it was only a few months ago that the owner finally relented, and the domain name was transferred to the Gorges boys.

So, about two months ago, I made the switch. For now, I just set it up as another account in Thunderbird (more on my Thunderbird setup). I created a generic “Archive” directory on my account (to mimic Gmail’s All Mail) and pointed my ‘Y’ shortcut to that directory. I’m using K-9 Mail on my Android phone, which I set up to save the entire Archive directory, so I’d have good local email search on my phone. Little by little, I’m moving over my email correspondence to the new, awesome address. Bye bye, Gmail!

4 thoughts on “Project Reclaim and the email dilemma

  1. Amanda French

    I remember having that dilemma when I was picking an email address too, but in a very short time I got used to “amanda at” — and no one has ever blinked at it.

    Now if only I could manage to wrest away from that darn Canadian girl.

  2. Sarah Price

    Hi, I’m the Gmail Community Manager. I happened to stumble onto your post.

    While of course I believe Gmail is the best email provider around 😉 I understand and respect your decision. I do want to let you know that Google always believes that the data you store with us is still your data. We have a number of initiatives to ensure this, including the Data Liberation Front and our new Good to Know guide to your data. If you are choosing to leave, I hope you have found it easy to liberate your data using POP.

    I see also that you are choosing to pay for your email. I’m not very familiar with Rackspace Email Hosting and do not know whether their software is open source or can be modified by you; if so, I understand how they align with your goals. I do want to let you know, just in case you didn’t, that Google provides paid email hosting as well that is ad-free and comes with 24/7 support.

    Best of luck with Project Reclaim!


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