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Moving 12 years of email from GMail to FastMail (cpbotha.net)
649 points by cpbotha on Aug 8, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 365 comments

I'm a FastMail customer. Here's some things I like and why I switched from Gmail and Google Apps:

   - better shortcuts in the web interface
   - the mobile web interface is actually good
   - can import email by IMAP
   - POP links actually work, Gmail's POP links are broken
   - IMAP is better implemented
   - Gmail limits IMAP to 15 max connections and 
     each folder ends up being a connection
   - CardDAV works and has good picture resolution,
     when I was on Google Apps they were limited to 80px
   - FastMail's Sieve filters are very flexible
   - on folders vs tags, I like folders more, because then
     I can import my huge work email as a backup without
     polluting my searches and my archive
   - Google Apps email aliases limited to 30 per user, which is 
     pretty dumb and insufficient if you have a couple of domains
   - FastMail does sub-domain email aliasing, which is awesome,
     as now each user account I have has its own email; Gmail
     only does "plus" aliasing, but that's obvious and problematic
Part of this decision was also a switch from Google Drive to Dropbox: Dropbox supports Linux, Google Drive does not.

On the matter of privacy, Google is simply too big and has access to too much info. They have your searches, often representing your secret desires, your video/music preferences, your favorite locations and habits, your travel itinerary, your voice, your chats, your G+ likes, your email, your purchases, etc.

And don't get me wrong, personally I've never seen many big companies as competent and as non-evil as Google. I also worked with their AdX and I can tell you that from the advertiser's perspective, Google discloses much less information than others in the business. But they don't have to be evil right now, they simply have to store that info and analyze it later, sell it, etc. And consider that the info in question is enough to determine with accuracy if somebody is pregnant, male or female, black or gay, as in things that in the right context can get one injured or killed.

In other words you can use Google's stuff, but reducing their area of knowledge and not placing all your eggs in the same basket is always wise.

"the mobile web interface is actually good"

This is true of their interface as a whole. I keep it pinned as my first tab and avoid using a native mail client at all. It barely uses any memory or cpu, is always responsive, and has never crashed on me in 2 years of constant usage.

It's an amazing product and I'm always happy to see people leaving GMail for it.

If you have your own server (of any kind, even a Raspberry Pi), there's no excuse for not running your own CardDAV, at least (you can also run CalDAV), and it works beautifully:


Radicale even commits every change to a git repo, if you want, so you can go back to your contacts history an arbitrary amount of time just by using `git log`!

I'm interested in keeping my data private, and willing to pay for it, I'm just not interested in maintaining a server, and dealing with 1) keeping it up, and 2) keeping it secure.

I'd just rather pay someone a small monthly/annual fee to do it for me, along with keeping my data private.

Try Radicale contact and calendars on Sandstorm[0]. 1 click install[1]. Can be self hosted or as part of their hosted service[2] (free while in beta).




I wasn't aware that sandstone had a hosted option, I was under the impression you had to provide your own hardware/vps. I'll check it out, but I'm still not that interested in maintaining and keeping it up to date!

That's true, but many people have a home server anyway, so this is a very nice addition.

As an aside, after this article I wanted to give Fastmail a shot, but I had already signed up a while ago and then never logged back in. I asked support if they could give me another trial so I could actually try it out, but they said I had to pay. Not great customer support there, especially since I had sent or received zero emails and creating another account for a trial is trivial...

Absolutely. I'm not bothered with allowing an externally facing system inside my home wifi network, and I'm not interested in ensuring I keep my systems patched and up to date. Id also not like to leave a box running 24/7 when I can leech a teeny amount of power from a data entire only when it's needed!

Would you be interested in a service where you buy your own server (metal/VPS/whatever) and through an API/web interface select which profile to run? E.g. webserver (apache, nginx, ...), mail server (postfix, exim, ...), load balancer, database (mysql, pgsql, ...), or "app" (ownCloud (has CalDAV support), Wordpress, etc.)?

The idea is that the server is yours, and yours only. We manage the setup, monitoring, alarms and all the boring stuff. If you need any assistance, we have sysadmins that can help for a fee, and depending on how critical it is for you, we'd offer multiple levels of subscription with different service levels and response times.

Honestly, I'm not sure what I want.

You mention response times and priority support, and are talking about choosing nginx vs Apache. That's far more detail than I care about. I want to click a button, give you my card details, have an inbox and calendar that I can easily access on my phone, work machine and home machine, and with some level of guarantee about the security and privacy of my data. I'm not bothered about support response times - 99.9% of the time I'm not going to need it.

I want google mail + Google calendar, without the Google.

Thank you for responding.

The listed roles were just to show the idea of the service; an role providing mail and calendar (e.g. Kolab) would only have a few required options (if any). Any additional detail would be optional and have our default recommended values.

I would say there are plenty of people who _would_ be interested in that sort of a service. I've been thinking about this since I wrote the above responses, and I'm fairly certain that what I want is gmail + google calendar + google drive, without the google. The more friction or configuration steps I have to go through, the less likely I am to use it.

Case in point: I'm not particularly happy with providing LastPass with my password info. I currently pay for their service. In order to transition to KeePass, I have to give up the automatic sync functionality between my devices, I have to manually back up my key database myself, and I lose the browser extensions that lastpass provides. I'm finding it hard to justify switching for the above reasons.

Same here. I settled on fastmail, and I'm pretty happy so far!

I'm using https://soverin.net for €29/year (€39 if you don't have your own domain) to limit my google dependence. Added benefit that they are based in EU. Disclaimer: our company works with them so I'm definitely biased.

Looks nice, but my worry is if they'd be alive in a year. I have actually used an e-mail provider before that's no more.

I'd like the European level of the data privacy but also a company that is set to live long, and the web site looks too much like a startup that can disappear tomorrow (as in "it didn't grow enough, who cares, it's just a web address, let's kill it and do something else.")


Edit: Not saying it's modern or user friendly. It has worked for me for 10 years without touching it, though.

Try https://cloudron.io. They have SOGo and ownCloud which have pretty decent UIs for contacts. Rainloop for mail.

How much would you be willing to pay?

Honestly, I don't know. It depends on how usable the service is. I'm currently paying $36/yr for a vpn, $20/year for mail, and $12/year for password sync. Ideally I'd like to spend about the same, and be able to move my file syncing away from Dropbox/google drive, and my calendar off google. I'd be willing to pay a little more to support a cause though.

I second these points and would add:

- support for U2F/FIDO second-factor authentication (among other, lesser beasts of similar burden).

I also find their blog interesting and informative, at https://blog.fastmail.com/

* edit: Google/Gmail supports U2F as well, so it's not a distinction - just a baseline benefit.

   - can import email by IMAP
We recently migrated to GApps sat work, and this is exactly how we imported old mail, so the feature is definitely there. I'm not sure if it's only available for GApps users or only available during some unspecified migration period, though.

It's only available to GApps users in the Admin panel. And when I tried it I had about 30% of my email missing in Gmail, so the import misfired. I ended up copying email manually with an email client. Maybe they fixed it, as I says, these days I'm on FastMail. But it's still a pita that the import has to be handled by admins.

>Part of this decision was also a switch from Google Drive to Dropbox: Dropbox supports Linux, Google Drive does not.

Which to me has always been kind of weird because Google uses Linux internally for most of their workstations.

Well, for me that's not weird, it's just a big fuck you, totally consistent with what other companies are doing. Multi-platform these days means Windows + OS X + Android + iOS. And the market I'm in is too small for them to bother, so might as well sit on that pile of cash and not want my business.

The weird part is that Linux is mostly about the server, being a really good home server for many people. And setting up a home server that synchronizes your files, for cheap with a Raspberry Pi and an external hard-drive, is a no-brainer. It's almost like they don't want people to do that.

But anyway, I'm voting with my wallet as they say. Currently paying €13.98/month for Dropbox, because I included the 1-year versioning add-on.

I also just gave up on 1Password for the same reason, even though I was happy with it on my Mac, switched to KeeWeb + Keepass2Android + MiniKeePass. In some ways it's even better - I now have a full history of all my edits and it can never switch on me or die.

> Multi-platform these days means Windows + OS X + Android + iOS.

I wish. "Multi-platform" and what it means for vendors:

Apple: macOS, iOS, watchOS, Safari.

Microsoft: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Windows Mobile.

Google: Chrome, Chromebook, Android, iOS.

1password keeps a history of edits, too. I don't know any way in which it's not a full history… hmm… maybe because they expose previous passwords, but if you change your username, they don't keep the old username unless it was a separate entry?

Yes, the username and all other fields besides the password are not kept in that history.

That plus the whole Android and ChromeOS thing. If you have Google Drive on a Chromebook, you have Google Drive on Linux.

They are probably dogfooding the office suite that works fine in Chrome on Linux, and anything that's not a Doc/Sheet/presentation is source code under version control. I doubt they felt a pressing need for a desktop app supporting arbitrary kinds of files.

Don't forget YouTube.

I've been thinking about moving to FastMail for quite some time now for pretty much the same reasons you mentioned.

What still keeps from switching though is that I rely on services like SaneBox and Unroll.me for organising my email. Unfortunately, the last time I looked only GMail is properly supported by these services and there doesn't seem to be a vendor-independent alternative either.

Does anyone here use services like SaneBox with FastMail?

Happy SaneBox + FastMail user for two years now. SaneBox works great with any standard IMAP connection.

> Gmail only does "plus" aliasing, but that's obvious and problematic

When using Gmail with Google Apps you can set up wildcarding, I have it setup so I can put anything I like before the at symbol and it all funnels into my inbox, no plus required. I use this typically to set the email address used with a given company to their name @ my domain.

I wonder how long before Google buys Fastmail.

Fastmail was previously bought out by Opera, then a few years later the original owners bought themselves back.

So now they are independent again I expect they are a bit more averse to being bought out.

That's my hope :-)

One of advantages of using google products now is that all of their products can be controlled with a single account without much hassle. Since one is going to use at least one of their products, it makes to use Gmail. Gmail has a lot of advantages, although Fastmail does provide more flexibility.

For Google Drive you can just use insync. I used to use them before I went with my self hosted solution.

Any suggestions for Google Docs users?

Dropbox Paper looks pretty cool if you're looking for an alternative. Beta, though.

How is search compared to Gmail? I would expect Google to implement a better search.

Search within emails is good and supports advanced search with "from:", "to:", "after:" and things like that. And if you're using a desktop client, like Thunderbird, search through IMAP with FastMail feels faster.

The only difference I found is that Gmail also indexes attachments, like PDFs. Which is a cool capability, but I wished for that only once in the last year and that's only because somebody sent me a PDF without a textual description of what it is. So it can be useful, but not a deal breaker.

Even then, you can narrow it down a lot with 'filetype:pdf' to only show messages with pdf attachments

I find myself in a minority on this one, but a big part of why I switched to FastMail is Gmail's search was always slow and typically insufficient for me. E.g., Gmail didn't (doesn't?) do stemming, meaning I needed to memorize exact phrases to find messages. I've had no such problems with FastMail search and it's remarkably quick.

I had the same experience years ago. Checking again today on my GMail account shows that partial string searches (or prefixes) don't work at all, but I don't really notice it because it gives good search suggestions in the popup.

For example, if I search for a partial string, say the first part of my last name, GMail finds no messages. But there are hundreds of messages from my family members with the same last name in my inbox.

Another example: searching for Verizo results in "no messages found", but GMail recommends I search for Verizon and that shows all the messages I expect (at a glance.)

Gmail search definitely stems. I just spot checked a few irregular plurals and their singular forms are all found. One other benefit of Gmail search is it also searches Docs and other private data. For some reason the Gmail search is more effective and faster than Google Docs' own search.

It's been a few years since I've actively used it. If they added the feature, fantastic. I recall looking for an email containing "dog" and search for "dogs" and couldn't get a match.

It's unlikely I'll be switching back soon, if for no other reason than I'm prepaid on FastMail, but how is searching over large accounts now? I found with more than a few GB of email, search would take upwards of 20s. I had to get very aggressive about deleting messages to keep the search time down.

20 seconds is completely outside of my experience. You were searching with the gmail frontend, or via IMAP? I have 5GB in Gmail and I get instant results as I type in the search box, and full results in about one second when I hit the enter key. I only have a little bit of email in my fastmail account so I can't really compare it.

This was with the Gmail front-end. It's entirely possible there was just something messed up with my account. I haven't come across too many others that have had similar issues, but most people I know have much smaller accounts.

Thanks for letting me know my info is out-of-date. The problem with these sorts of comparisons is it's hard to use both options extensively, simultaneously.

90% of the time I'm just searching for messages from a particular sender. Like GMail, FastMail autocompletes contact names in search so this works great for me.

"the mobile web interface is actually good" That's funny you should say that. I use gmail on its mobile web interface exclusively (using chrome on ios), while my wife who is a fastmail user can't make heads or tails of their mobile site. What is it you prefer about fastmail's mobile site?

What problems does she have with the web interface?

For example one thing I like in FastMail is that in the message list you can finger swipe an item to the left for Delete and to the right for Archive. In Gmail doing that is not accompanied by a drag, so it isn't intuitive and you can only Archive, but not Delete. I like my Inbox to be clean and I prefer to delete junk, no reason to pollute my archive with nonsense. And when viewing a message, FastMail's UI also has arrows for jumping to the next message, which I like.

Another thing that bothers me in Gmail is the message details. In FastMail's UI you get more details.

And also, Gmail's mobile UI has virtually no preferences you can adjust and you have to switch to the desktop version for it, whereas FastMail's mobile UI has most settings in the desktop version.

Honestly I don't know. All I know is she basically refuses to use it because it's too much work.

It sounds like the FM mobile site meets your requirements, especially with respect to inbox zero housekeeping (that I don't practice). I think that's a long way from claiming that the gmail mobile site doesn't work, as the other poster stated.

I think it's nice that there is more than one email service. I don't think they have to be totally ordered by some objective criterion.

One thing that _really_ annoys me about swipe-to-archive on gmail is that, if you do it accidentally, you can't swipe back to undo -- you have to actually tap 'undo'.

My muscle memory just seems programmed to swipe back in the direction I came; and this seems much more intuitive. It's such an annoyance that I've now disabled the swipe functionality.

Does Fastmail implement this better? Or maybe I'm just strange...

Hey, yes, in Fastmail it is properly implemented - it behaves just like the iOS email client, or others: you have to swipe all the way (either to the left for archive or to the right for delete), but if you swipe back, or if you simply release without going the whole way, it will just cancel the action. And you get the swipe animation, so it's intuitive. Which is not something you see often in mobile web interfaces :-)

I, too, would be interested to know what issues someone could have with the Fastmail mobile interface. I'm not even sure how they could make it simpler - it's pretty great.

HN and FastMails mobile interfaces are the only mobile interfaces I am able to use on the entire Internet

HN has tiny links (firefox android at least), I always have to zoom in to get to comments or upvote anything. But otherwise fairly readable …

I agree about Fastmail's mobile interface though. Almost anything else goes through Reader View (currently trying out https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/automatic-rea... which seems promising). Just wish the Reader View could remember my scroll position …

Twitter has a nice mobile interface as well.

For me, using Chrome on Android, Twitter's mobile interface displays an error page whenever I try to attach a photo. Apart from that it's quite nice.

Funny, one of the reasons I switched to fastmail was because my mum could understand their interface but gmail kept changing every month! I haven't had a support call asking where the new email button has gone since.

One of the biggest benefits to fastmail for me is the buttons are labelled with text on desktop.

The most important step for folks that wish to break free for Google: start using a custom domain name as soon as possible. Because the hard part is not moving from one email service provider to another, but getting your new email address in everybody's address books and changing all your site logins.

And if you love your Gmail interface and all the goodies that come with it, thats fine. Get a 1 user Google Apps account ($5/month) and start using your own domain with it. That way you have the freedom to switch to a other provider at any time once you are ready.

Or if you can't pay the 5$/month, you can get a free Zoho mail account with custom domain and connect Gmail to it.

Holy crap...

So I read your comment and strolled on over to Zoho, who I'd never heard of before. They have a lot of products...just wow. That's a lot of stuff.

It's just such a jumble. I find myself wanting to know more about what they have to offer but yet completely overwhelmed by everything that's there. Can anybody speak to the quality of these products? How well do they interact? Is Creator any good? It looks like a BPM offering that could fit for small businesses?

Just a heads up. I hate badmouthing companies, but... I wanted to use them instead of Google but my standard .com domain kept error int out in there interface and multiple support emails and posts in their support forum went unanswered so I bailed back to Google.

I wanted to like them, but their signup and support experience was terrible. Their other products seemed to work well, but they've lost me as a customer.

(Zoho CEO here) I am sorry to hear this. If you can email me your issue I will have it taken care of. svembu at Zoho dot com.

Hi. On a tangent, but email related. To you sub-contract the system to Alibana in the form of Alimail. The UI looks completely identical.

I'm having a vague recollection about the company now. Did you spend any time at Clemson?

The founder, Sridhar, is on here: https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=sridharvembu

Very talented and humble guy.

Just treat it like google, or AWS - you're not going to use all their services and you don't need to. The things I'm using I'm really happy with.

Email just works. No thrills there. Using a custom domain.

Invoicing is pretty simple and I like that tracking payments and payment processors are integrated.

Docs are pretty good. They allow both storing files in arbitrary structure and tagging them at the same time. There's a phone app which I used once or twice and it's ok.

In general, I like it. It supports 2FA. If they let me pay for the service I would (5 users minimum, there's no cheap single-user subscription). It's kind of like an office suite - you're not going to praise how great it is, there are some obscure issues out there, but it works year after year for me and I'm happy to use it. While it may have happened, I can't remember any outage of their service.

I moved from Zoho to Fastmail last December when their continuous outage almost ruined my job search process.

I first heard of them in 2007, so they've been around a while. I haven't used their products much though.

Pretty happy custom domain + free Zoho mail user. 25 free users with 5 GB of email storage each is a pretty amazing deal you get without paying a dime.

Although, to be perfectly honest, I don't use any other product offered by Zoho.

You can use a custom domain using a personal gmail account if you forward email to the gmail account from the registrar and then setup send mail as using gmail.

If you're using Gandi (a registrar I would strongly recommend), you can set this up from your Gandi domain dashboard: Click "Manage mailboxes" and create a forwarding address. Example: https://i.imgur.com/qRmho7J.png - The MX values for your domain need to be Gandi's default email servers.

Too bad they only support SSL ports 110 and 995 when setting up POP3, my registrar uses 465.

Seems rather odd — 465 is for outgoing mail (SMTP). 110/995 are for incoming pop3.

You have to be careful with that. If an attacker can gain access to your DNS provider, then they have access to your email: à la https://medium.com/@N/how-i-lost-my-50-000-twitter-username-...

And if they get into your email account on gmail, you lose your email account. (possibly permamently) Just evaluate and choose your risks.

Just beware of trying to use this as your main google account. You will be waiting months or years for new features that become available to @gmail.com users.

I'm a Google apps 10-users-free legacy user from when it was free, what am I missing? I'm using inbox since the moment it came out, not sure what else there should be?

Also, you can add email aliases - even for other domains. This is how I have my email setup. For $5 a month it's worth it for me.

My business uses Fastmail, and I'm mostly happy with it. The one thing I notice every day though, is the spam detection. I start each day by marking 10-15 messages as spam. That's been the case for three years, and I don't seem to be making headway on training their spam filter.

It's a small thing, takes me all of 10 seconds, but I do notice it, every morning.

It's interesting that this is the top comment, I'm assuming it's because Gmail users like myself just don't see spam anymore - Google's spam filters are so good that I don't even think about it anymore.

Actually I have a huge issue with Gmail spam filters being over aggressive. Replies to my own emails often find their way to my spam box. I check the spam folder daily and notice at least 5-10 emails that are not spam getting sucked in. Even if I mark them Not Spam, the next day an email from the same address will end up right back there.

I have the same problem. At one time, more than half the Gmail spambox was legitimate email, so I had to check it every day. (It was so bad, I kept screen grabs as evidence.)

This year, things got much better for a few months, and now they are getting worse again....

I definitely had this problem. I moved from a metal server to a VPS which had a different IP address, and it's taken probably 3 months to finally have a decent enough email reputation so that Gmail isn't automatically dumping email into spam. And you have to drill down to even get to that Spam folder too.

It was at the point where I really couldn't effectively communicate with anyone on gmail because of that. The answer I kept getting was "Well, why don't you just use Gmail instead of your own email stuff?" It's kind of scary to me sometimes just how well Google has managed to get people to equate email with Gmail.

The middle of last year is when it started for me. It only affects my personal Gmail account, though. My Google for Business account seems to work fine, and I get a lot more mail there. I can't imagine they use two different filters, but it seems to almost be the case. Either that or there is a bug in one platform with the Not Spam button not working properly.

I have the same problem. A few emails a week get classified as spam by gmail, when they should not.

I guess many users don't complain about it as they never look in their gmail spam folders and see emails that they should have received.

GMail once ate (bypassed spam and instantly deleted it, silently) an email filled with travel itinerary for an interview, causing me to miss the flight booked for me and the company I was interviewing with to have to book a second one (~$1k). If you find this hard to believe, go check your spam folder and see how many emails you have. Do you think you're really only getting ~1 spam message a day? This is the dark side of Google's spam filtering.

Instantly deleted it? That doesn't sound right for the spam folder.

There is a threshold for spammyness that will cause email to be dropped silently and never reach the spam folder.

I'm skeptical this is true. Is there any documentation or other evidence for this?

I read that forum rant and the linked content, and there is still no evidence that Gmail is deleting emails immediately by default. I read two possible causes:

- Content Compliance setting (managed by admin) that can prevent emails from reaching inbox

- Some other service, such as Exchange, which can somehow interfere with Gmail?

Specifically, the article mentions a "quarantine" folder that is not part of Gmail. Or am I missing something?

The quarantine folder you mention is part of the content compliance settings. Mail that matches content compliance rules goes into a quarantine that only admins can access.

There is no such silent drop. All traffic to Gmail is either delivered or rejected at SMTP time.

This is demonstrably not true. Just send mail to an email list that you are on. The email will be sent (confirm with other list members), however you will not receive it when it is relayed to the group by the listserver.

(Or was your comment tongue-in-cheek?)

That's actually an incredibly annoying fallout of gmail's deduplication that cannot be disabled. I believe gmail de-duplicates your list echo because it sees a copy in your sent folder. I wish it could be disabled :-/

Yes, this is a very annoying "feature" of gmail.

If list owners wanted this to be a feature, you could configure it on a list basis, at least in mailman. However nobody does, because it's incredibly annoying :-)

Agreed. Whenever I mail a list if I have an important message I have to ask someone if the message appeared or not. I can't verify by receiving my own copy. I use mail lists every day.

Your complaint seems to lie with the list management software, not with gmail.

It will frequently gobble up multi-lingual emails. I discovered this when I ignored a customer in Chile for a while because he had a Spanish email signature.

> bypassed spam and instantly deleted it, silently

Do you have any proof for that - I don't want to see it in detail, but I cannot remember a single incidence where my mail was just silently eaten by google? But I agree with what you said implicitly: gmail should let users chose between "move to spam", "only flag as spam" and "simply delete"; I share your pain of having to go through the spam-folder to find the one mis-classified mail once a month.

EDIT: I have had many user reports about this but when checking mail server logs I always could pin-point the problem at either the local server config or being caught in some "you are evil" classification - the latter much more time intensive to fix....)

From the end user's perspective, silently putting email in 'you are evil' classification isn't much different from just deleting.

I'd rather get spam once in awhile than turn my spam folder into a de facto secondary inbox.

I'm afraid to test it out with my personal account, but I wonder what would happen if you sent a test to a gmail account with the GTUBE spam signature? You know, the one that scores 999 points with Spamassassin.


Was it an automated email? Is it possible that gmail rejected the email at SMTP time and the bounce wasn't properly relayed by another system?

I keep receiving emails to other email addresses I don't own. Sometimes it contains sensitive information...

Gmail's anti-spam filters have the opposite problem, putting a ton of legit emails into the spam folder.

The other day I had to sign a NDA from Google and it ended up in the spam folder. We were on the phone for over 20 minutes just waiting for the NDA to come, until I decided to check the spam folder and sure enough, there it was.

The spam filter is in my opinion too dumb for this age. Once you mark one email from one domain as a spam, every single email from that domain ends up in the spam folder also. For instance I don't want to see stupid Comcast commercial offerings but I need to receive my invoice every month. Unsubscribe works sometimes, but not all the time.

I, too, have run into this. One email setup was moved to Google Apps, and it flagged JIRA email as spam. Once that was fixed, I figured I was good, but more recently it flagged a document share request... from Google Docs... originating from within the same organization (i.e. same Google Apps account). Left hand, meet right hand.

I use many filters to deal with legitimate incoming mail – and I usually set the 'Never send it to Spam' tag. That has helped a lot!

Yes, but Google spam filters are too aggressive. It is worthwhile adding that once in a while I keep running into a message lying in Spam that ought to have been in Inbox.

Due to a recent bad experience of email being mis-categorised, I've taken to checking the gmail spam folder again several times a week, just to be sure :-\

Yup, though for me, I've only seen this happen with two different work google apps/gmail accounts, not my personal account. In one case, it caused a bit of a problem!

Yap, I noticed a few valid messages there recently. Marked them as "Not Spam" but it was a bit worrying.

It’s the top comment right now because it was only posted 5 minutes ago.

It pays to check for false positives from time to time. Other than that, Gmail's spam filter is really impressive, especially given that I have catch-all enabled (via Google Apps).

The challenge with spam filtering isn't in stopping all spam, but rather with nother filtering that one random email that turns out to lead to a life-changing opportunity..

The spam folder is the only place I can find email personally addressed to me these days. (Always from that nigerian royal member, unfortunatelly...)

I still think about it when it (albeit VERY rarely) marks legitimate emails as spam.

Spam was the main reason why I moved back from Fastmail to Gmail. Another reason was the lacking support for special characters, i.e., characters not found in standard English, for example in search. IMAP was great, however, I missed Gmail's way of filing sent mails with labels.

As a Gmail user, you are simply no longer used to daily spam messages, even if you use catch-all (via Google Apps).

In terms of privacy, Fastmail had no advantage over Gmail (via Google Apps) for me; both providers have servers in the US and are based in a Five Eyes country.

That does not of course not mean that Fastmail cannot be a great alternative for many users, it was simply not sufficiently better than Gmail for me. It is great to see that there is still a niche for a 'native' IMAP provider with some extras!

The spam threshold is adjustable: https://www.fastmail.com/help/receive/stopspam.html#settings

It also supports training a filter on your specific email/spam patterns which works very well in my experience.

I had huge problems with spam on Fastmail, enough that after my year ended I moved to another provide. I really liked Fastmail, and the service was pretty good (although when I asked them why my domain was getting put into spam filters they couldn't really help much).

Now I'm with Mailbox.org, and they're really good. A little cheaper too.

Serious question - why would you pay for email when there's plenty of good free providers? (Gmail, Yahoo, etc)

Not OP but a fellow fastmail user.

Now a days there aren't actually good free providers. Google charges a yearly fee if you want to use a custom domain.

This wasn't true when I originally switched to fastmail. Back then google still had a free personal google apps account which supported custom domains. I pay fastmail because I know what the deal is. I pay them $50 a year and they host my email with my domains. There is no question about what trade we are making. In addition I'm getting to pay a very small amount and support fellow developers building a good product.

The old saying is that with google you are the product. Your information is being parsed, stored, tracked, and used to advertise to you. I'm happy to pay a bit of money and not be the product. I don't do this everywhere but there are more then a few places it is true. I also despise ads and will pay money to opt out of them almost everywhere. YoutubeRed, iOS games, etc.

Because they aren't free, there is always a cost. Not only that, a single Gmail tab can take up 350-500 mb RAM. Lastly, getting Gmail on a custom domain is not "free" anymore.

I have the opposite issue with GMail. I spend the same amount of time removing things from the spam folder.

I had a similar issue with FastMail - if I remember correctly, it needs 200 messages to be moved from inbox to junk and 200 moved from junk to inbox before the personalised filter kicks in.

The more, the better. I've 1600 learned spam and 7677 learned non-spam. The spam filter works pretty well for me. Occasionally one slips through, but that happened on gmail as well. So I'm very happy with FastMail.

Sounds like the SpamAssassin default settings.

It's a similar thing on Rackspace's email. Their spam filter never learns anything. Marking something as "Not Spam" just adds a whitelisting rule for that sender for that particular email account. You can bypass all of Rackspace's email filters simply by UTF8 encoding the from address and subject.

Spam filtering at most big providers is still abysmal.

Worth following all the instructions on https://www.fastmail.com/help/receive/stopspam.html

I found pointing my MX records straight at Fastmail helped a lot with spam. See "If you use your own domain" in those instructions.

Is their spam filter deliberately design to be too conservative?

> I had to deal with keeping my server out of over-enthusiastic spam blacklists

My domain got blacklisted once. I contacted the service concerned (i.e. the people running the blacklist) and they said my web domain had appeared in the footer of a spam email.

"So, do you have any evidence I put it there, or paid someone to put it there?"


"So you'll blacklist random domains a spammer puts in their email? Because that's what happened here."

I was surprised (and still am) that this kind of service could be so naive. My domain was literally just a bare http://domain.com/ in the footer, no link or advertising associated with it at all. Domain blacklist successfully polluted, as far as the spammer was concerned.

Sounds like negative SEO. I remember reading about one particular spam tool "XRumer" which would register fake forum posts and run amok spamming for SEO backlinks. Google caught up and running xrumer became almost a guarantee for being de-listed. Of course, the logical conclusion to all this is bad guys turning the tool against their competitors. A random story from googling xrumer negative seo is this story about blackmail threatening to spam the victim's URL: http://www.warriorforum.com/search-engine-optimization/11499...

I think it's a mistake to think of this as a long-standing policy for a spam blacklist. They are constantly evolving, just as the spam is, and there will be hiccups and problems as new detection techniques come online. At one point, identifying all domains listed in the content of definitively identified spam might have been very useful. Then spammers could have realized this and started peppering their content with random domains to poison this technique. In the short time between this technique being poisoned and discontinued (in this hypothetical scenario), quite a few people were probably affected, and while it was a short period, it would probably also account for 99% of the problems related to this.

Perhaps it wasn't a spammer, it would seem like a really "good" (in an underhanded, evil manner) for for a competitor to try to hurt your business.

Non-commercial domain, in this case, on a .org address. But there's all sorts of evil can be done with this kind of thing, yours is another example.

FastMail is great and their web interface is really light and fast, but the pricing[0] doesn't fit me. I want to use my custom domain as an email address, so I have to choose the `Enhanced` plan ($40 USD per 1 year). That also provides 100 domains and 500 domain aliases, it is a bit overwhelming for personal use. I hope they would make a new middle-class plan between `Full` and `Enhanced` with Cal/Card DAV features.

[0]: https://www.fastmail.com/help/ourservice/pricing.html

And...this is why nobody can make any money providing decent services on the Internet, and as a result we're all subject to a constant onslaught of intrusive and scammy advertising. And those of us who might have been creating useful services are instead spending our time building ever more bogus advertising platforms...

There's a pretty big gap between $40 and "nobody can make any money".

Not really. Try running a service where you charge users. $40 per account is near the lower bound considering transaction costs and other overheads, before you add in the actual cost to provide the service. Any less and you may as well make it free since you don't need to provide reliable service or support for freeloaders.

What about the family or business plans? They seem to have custom domain even at the lite option.


Oh, that's interesting. I've been wanting to use a custom domain just for forwarding, and the enhanced personal plan seemed like overkill. I'll have to look into the limitations of the lite family plan.

It says no custom domain support. I only see it at the enhanced option, just like personal.

Uh, it says "Use your own domain or one of ours" at the top. That sounds to me like you can use a custom domain with any family plan, Lite and Full included. Are you sure that isn't the case?

100 domains / 500 aliases is just a limit to prevent abuse in my opinion. What the step from full to enhanced earns you is 15 times the storage, the ability to use your own domain(s), and full mobile sync, at twice the price. It seems rather fair to me (I'm on enhanced, ~3GB of email, 1 custom domain, mobile sync).

Fastmail has a family plan that costs $5/year (in addition to your normal account cost) and lets you use personal domains. That is the reason I'm looking at them as it was the best price I could find for such a service.

> $40 USD per 1 year

Curious, do you think you would have perceived the price differently if it had been presented as $3/mo?

Was in the same boat, when looking to leave Gmail.

Now I pay 18€ per year for custom domain support, 10 aliases, 10GB mailbox, 50MB attachment, IMAP, ActiveSync, CardDAV, CalDAV. Webmail is handled by sOGO, roundcube, squirrelmail, support is fast and tickets get answered in couple hours max. Service is in EU.

Where's that?

+1 on almost everything you wrote. I also moved from Gmail to Fastmail in almost exactly the same way some months ago. I agree completely to the plusses and minuses you mention.

I would like to add one minus though. Any good old smiley like ":)" in emails gets replaced by a yellow smiley face icon. I hate to see yellow smiley faces where someone wrote colon end parenthesis. It's all done client-side though, so noone else has to see it. Have been in contact with FM tech support and they seem to be uninterested in adding a checkbox to turn this nuisance off. Otherwise an excellent, excellent service.

I had a problem with the smileys as well. They don't actually appear by default, but if you view your email in plain text and not HTML (as I do) there they are.

I made this for Stylish to fix the issue: https://userstyles.org/styles/106482/fastmail-hide-smileys/

Thanks! Stylish style installed and seems to work. But it's still bewildering why Fastmail does that. Anyway, I must say it's impressive that they make an email service where this is my biggest complaint :)

You could use the excellent Chrome add-on Resource Override[1] to make this change yourself if you really want to.

1: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/resource-override/...

This doesn't happen for me, so I assumed there must be a setting to turn that off. But looking through the FastMail settings I cannot find anything like that. Still, I don't see any yellow smiley face icons in FastMail when I send or receive ":)" in emails.


The shortcuts are .u and .r (note the dot). Hover over the "Mark" button to see it. Maybe they don't communicate the shortcuts in the best way but your post is overly inflammatory. This kind of language has no place on HN.

Lately I've been looking at some paid email options as I'm not happy with the offering over at Yahoo, Google, Microsoft or AOL. I wonder why they're all quite expensive. Fastmail is $40 a year, and that's for 15 GB. I would need at least 20 GB (which means I'm looking at $120 a year).

15 GB is free over at Google. Does that mean my data is really worth $40 a year to them. I do realize this is oversimplifying things...

One option would be to "self host" at Digital Ocean. For the same $120 I would get 30 GB storage and I could use the VPS for some other things. But even DO themselves try to dissuade you from doing that (on reasonable grounds I believe)[1].

[1] https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/why-you-may...

I'm using;

1) https://kolabnow.com/ (just the lite version for webmail)


2) https://posteo.de/en

both through Thunderbird and K9 clients. Perfectly happy with them.

Thanks, couldn't find info on storage space over at kolabnow. Posteo I've looked at before, it would cost me 6€ for 22GB, which is not too bad.

> 15 GB is free over at Google. Does that mean my data is really worth $40 a year to them. I do realize this is oversimplifying things...

That's not a valid comparison, the economies of scale Gmail benefits from means it can't be compared with a smaller email provider like Fastmail which has to ammortize the fixed overhead costs over a much smaller user base.

Gmail has over 1B monthly active users, at $40 /user would generate $40B a year on gmail alone, they made $75B Revenue in 2015 (16.3B profit). Google don't break their revenue numbers down but they have 7 properties with over 1B Users where I expect an overwhelming majority of their revenue still comes from Search when users are in the "actively searching" frame of mind and are more likely to purchase goods rather than in Gmail where their primary use-case is email.

I have about 20gb of messages in gmail that I'm considering moving too. But really, I can't think of a single time I've needed to look at a message that was more than a couple of years old. Running your own email server, getting around spam blockers and blocking incoming spam all sounds like a pain.

My plan is to move to fastmail but and only migrate across the last year or so of messages. Google's data liberation front[1] lets you download the complete data set as an archive. Then I'll just import the most recent year into fastmail (or one of the competitors) and ask google to delete its copy of my mail archive.

[1] https://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout

> Running your own email server, getting around spam blockers and blocking incoming spam all sounds like a pain.

It does look intimidating, but it's not. I've been doing it for years with little effort. Once you get dns set up, and set up spam-assassin (which is super easy), It's been pretty much just sit and watch it work, IME

I did that for a year on a 10 dollar box with Digital Ocean. In the end, the cost wasn't justified, as I can pay FastMail 120 a year for a lot more than what I was getting with Digital Ocean, and I don't have to worry about maintenance (updates, ssh configuration, etc)

I'm not saying that running your own server is for everyone. If you think FM is worth it for you, then by all means, have at it. I'm just saying that running your own server is pretty easy, and all the supposed spam-maintenance work is overblown

Yeah I agree. If running it yourself works for you, then by all means, you should do it. For me, I'd rather spend the 4 hours it takes to configure on something else.

Why delete from Google? They already crawled the hell out of it. You don't have much privacy to lose from them, even if they actually do delete the messages.

There is some risk that your gmail gets compromised in the future I suppose, but the chances of your backup being borked might compete with that.

I plan to move away from gmail but I'll probably keep the old stuff there. Convince me otherwise!

Try getting your mails from your self-hosted DO server into the inbox at Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo etc. The big mail providers have it all relatively sewn up - anything coming from the likes of a random VM provider like DO will end up in 'spam.'

Not necessarily true. A well configured mail server should be just fine. I personally use https://mailinabox.email/ to handle configuration for me and that works great.

If you're concerned about deliverability, you can also use a service like mail-tester.com [1], which receives a message you send and analyzes it for a wide variety of potential problems. I've found it to be a good guide.

[1] https://www.mail-tester.com/

that's only semi true, and probably true if you hadn't checked DO given IP address whether it was previously blacklisted in which case you need to create new server with hopefully pure IP.

In case of my own DO mailserver, Yahoo will put you into deferred state for a while eventually will see other emails are not similar enough and give you a chance to go into main mailbox. Unless you have nasty friends who mark each of your email as spam, Outlook Gmail and Yahoo will let it thru to their main mailbox. Also most of my friends are checking spam folder once a week or so, and then its enough for Yahoo to get you to reply to that email once, to consider it being 2-way conversation and all my future emails go to their main inbox without any issues, helping my IP get better reputation.

TLDR: most stories of personal mailserver being bad idea because big guys will put you in spam are grossly overstated, unless you plan to use your server to send large amount of emails that contain marketing stuff.

You can configure the MX record of your domain to point to your server (receive mail) but you can still send mail using a well known SMTP service.

I'm happy with Zoho Mail [1]. Even their free tier comes with a custom domain and 5 GB mailbox.

[1] https://www.zoho.com/mail/zohomail-pricing.html

Zoho is pretty good and a serious company, but I've had some trouble with them a few months ago (they were dealing with severe flooding) and it was on a really bad timing for me (I was expecting several critical emails).

After evaluating the alternatives, I'm still with them (both Google and Microsoft were too expensive or didn't support what I expected), I only wish they'd been more upfront with their issues. They did write a blog post later, and I think they've learned:


Why not use that transfer as an excuse to delete old email? I try to limit my accounts to hundreds of MBs, despite having far more capacity. Reduce the weight you carry around rather than hire a bigger backpack.

My tax returns are emailed to me. Even though I have never needed them I'm legally required to save them for 7 years just in case. I have a number of other emails in the old list that I don't expect to ever need again but they are still relevant to something and I need to keep them just in case. Odds are my house will not burn down, but I still have fire insurance - most of my old emails are like that: I don't believe I will ever need them but I can't prove it.

At work I've discovered outlook has an expires after tag that I can set on each email - I set this on everything I save which keeps my saved messages clean. I haven't found a convent way to do that with anything else though I understand something like it exists.

I back all my Gmail, Google Drive, contacts, etc. to S3 each year. Essentially I've got a yearly snapshot of each year's data, encrypted with GPG, in a rather redundant form of extremely cheap storage. Knowing this, deleting old years' emails from Gmail doesn't bother me.

Probably you using Gmail makes you more likely to use other google services, also they have scale, so if they get $10 of value per Gmail customer that's a lot more than Fastmail.

Also google is very bad at monetizing their products in general e.g. Google Docs has been around for years before Microsoft's cloud office offering, but they never seem to have bothered to turn that into a subscription based software package - which they almost certainly could have.

Google has been trying to monetize its online suite since 2007, when it introduced Google Apps Premier Edition for $50 per user account per year.


> very bad at monetizing their products in general

I'd guess that it's a support problem. It's quite hard to deny users support for paid-for products, and Google tries hard not to provide human support. It's expensive.

Obviously I'd be pleased if anyone has a better explanation ;-)

I think that's easier said than done. AFAIK Microsoft gets the real bucks from big business using their stuff. It would have been a very steep hill for Google to climb to compete with Microsoft in the office software market, doesn't matter that they had the web product sooner. You can see the same in reverse with the Windows mobile OS trying to compete with iOS and Android - which they seem to have given up on.

In addition, the difficulties of monetizing websites and software that seem to be doing great when offered for free IMHO shows how much stuff we don't actually need and only like to play with.

> Windows mobile OS trying to compete with iOS and Android - which they seem to have given up on.

Microsoft's strategy is to be cross-platform, which is why it has dozens of apps on iOS and Android, and supports Linux on Azure.

Microsoft's Windows strategy is to be cross-platform, with Windows 10 for "internet of things", phones, tablets, games consoles, all types of PC and servers.

Windows phones didn't sell well enough and the hardware lagged what was needed for Windows 10 (eg Hello and Continuum). However, there's still an ARM/smartphone version of Windows 10, so that door's not closed yet. There are always rumors about a business-oriented Surface phone

Also, Windows 10 was and is free for smartphones, so there's still room for Asian manufacturers to have a go. Even if they don't ship many units, it provides a fall-back if Google gets too aggressive on Android.

Windows 10 a failure by Microsoft's own metric (theregister.co.uk): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12114334



Current market share mobile OSes: https://www.netmarketshare.com/operating-system-market-share...

Optimism is fine, but after so many years...

> Microsoft's strategy is to be cross-platform

Now, when Windows Mobile turned out to be a failure. But not couple years ago and definitely not when they were buying Nokia.

Microsoft launched Office apps for iOS in 2014. So when did they start writing them?

UPDATE Note: Office 365 already supported Macs, and alternative browsers.

I on the other hand have a mailbox that is not even 100 MB, but I would have to pay $40 a year just to use my own domain. That's also a bit too expensive for my low mail volume.

I don't believe so... you could use the Family Lite account for $10/year (250MB, custom domain) - https://www.fastmail.com/signup/family.html

25 gigs at mailbox.org will run you EUR 3.50/month. Plus you get calendaring/contacts, proper CardDav/CalDav and GPG built in. They've been providing email for 27 years and run the email infrastructure for many companies large and small. Plus, your email would be running on renewable energy and their bank account is with a socially responsible bank (yes, such things exist).

What is reliable email worth to you though? $40/yr is a pittance for something I use every day...the analysis is harder when you have more data though, like you say.

Depending on what your threshold for needs is, Rackspace Email is a pretty solid solution for about $2 / user / month.

Been pretty happy with them for my needs. YMMV of course.

But if I remember things correctly they don't sell to a single user..?

Try calling them and ask for a single user account.

I went the opposite direction -- FastMail to Google Apps -- several years ago when FM had ~3 solid days of downtime. Really long time ago, but still a bit of a sore spot for me as I missed at least a day and a half of incoming email that wasn't deliverable during that time. My sense is that they're a much more mature company now though.

That said, I'm not sure why more people don't consider upgrading to Google Apps from free GMail. $50 a year gets you an SLA, support, and no ads. It's been extremely reliable for me and I've not had any downtime (that I've noticed) for 5+ years. No performance problems either that I hear folks complain about with free GMail either.

Obviously it would be better if there was no downtime, but the sending MTA should really have queued that mail and delivered it when Fastmail was back up.

It was down long enough that it blew through the queue for several (most? some?) MTAs which were about ~36 hours if I remember correctly.

The default I have seen everywhere (qmail, postfix) is a week.

that's assuming no one changes defaults... if your a large enough provider you are tweaking these settings.

Mostly because it doesn't defeat the issue with data collection. Google Apps doesn't, as far as I've ever been told, bar Google from using it's privacy-invasive "features" on your data. And while you can justify Gmail as a free service that violates your privacy to pay for it, Google Apps offers no such justification.

Google apps can be free if you have a old account. Only reason I still have a account.

But I am trying to move out of it.

"The Five Eyes, often abbreviated as FVEY, are an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. These countries are bound by the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence."

Austrlia is spying on your email on Fastmail the same way NSA is reading your gmail.

This is an often repeated fallacy, but Australia doesn't have the equivalent of the National Security Letter, by which they can coerce any company to do what they want without the right to disclose such breaches. The NSA is also the worst adversary you can get. I doubt Australia's agencies are as competent or as well financed.

Also, no security agency is above the law, but the problem with the NSA is that the US law does not apply to non-US citizens. Us foreigners, the ones that the NSA are supposedly targeting, have no way to fight this through the judicial system and we have no representatives to call or vote. But choose a service provider closer to home and things change dramatically.

> the National Security Letter, by which they can coerce any company to do what they want without the right to disclose such breaches.

National Security Letters can only be used to obtain metadata. Still bad, considering all that can be ascertained from metadata, buy not at all "coerce any company to do what they want"

What about lavabit? They were forced to shut up shop because of a secret order that was for much more than metadata.

#tinfoil hat on#

So the NSA could be spying on Fastmail and sharing that with Australia?

Anyway, you'd have to be crazy to expect privacy on cloud services with the way governments are ignoring laws left and right.

FastMail's servers are in the US.

True, but Fastmail has addressed this. I'm not sure that their argument completely holds up, but here's what they have to say about it: https://blog.fastmail.com/2013/10/07/fastmails-servers-are-i...

I don't think they are, as mentioned, Australia doesn't have the equivalent of a National Security Letter. FastMail has a very short and very easy to understand privacy policy: https://www.fastmail.com/about/privacy.html

This is both true and important, but I think the author was aware of it, and is willing to sacrifice that privacy for convenience (note how they moved from a private mail server to Gmail, then FastMail).

"I do have FastMail’s Android app on my telephone. The app is a Cordova / PhoneGap / CrossWalk style unit with real-time email push and notification via Google Cloud Messaging (this is a relatively energy-efficient way for android phones to get push notification and is natively supported by FastMail)."

Migrating away from GMail for privacy reasons and he still ends up with Google for functionality...

Do you know what data is transmitted via GCM? It could be a simple "hey check your email" ping to trigger a sync. I doubt the message size allows for much more anyway. It might also be encrypted, whatever it contains.

It's just an edge trigger - pretty much a modseq counter on the entire user (though we have plans to split it up into categories a little more so you know if it's just a calendar change or just an email arrival)

You would still have some meta-data :-)

Well yeah but if all Google knows is when you're getting push notifications about email, then that's a lot better then them having all your email. I mean, there's a good chance that the person who just emailed you is using Gmail so they still have a lot of your email even if you don't use it at all. It's all a trade-off.

Civilians think Gmail IS email. I gave my landlord my email the other day, and she was like oh, isn't there supposed to be gmail at the end of it? I had a custom domain.

It always confuses the hell out of people when I give my email as "<companyname>@mydomain.foo". I've gotten responses from "oh do you work here?" to just confused looks. It's really just to help me with filters (and null-route things should the email get too much spam)

What was quite ironic for me is that I bought a ".mobi" domain name, because it was the only TLD that I was able to get so it can be $first_name + "." + $tld. - It seems that the .mobi TLD is more confusing than ever for people. I originally got it as a shorthand to my actual domain ( routing all emails to my primary domain )

The problem with GCM is that there's no real replacement for it. It's just too absurdly efficient.

"So far, my conclusion is that this is a service that is technically more than capable of replacing GMail, even for power users. Furthermore, FastMail’s primary (and in fact only) business model is to charge you money for making sure that you can keep on emailing like a boss. Together, this makes for an offer that I could not refuse".

Totally agreed. I'm a Fastmail's happy user, glad to pay for such a great service.

About the last part: isn't the Google Apps model the same?

Google Apps isn’t Google’s primary business – they could neglect it and have unhappy customers, but their bottom line would hardly notice the difference.

Given that ~90% of Google's revenue is its search business (AdWords and AdSense) that's true for pretty much everything they do apart from that core business.


Pretty hardcore fastmail fan here, love it, I did something similar about 3 years ago - I migrated my 10GB~ gmail account to Fastmail.

Haven't looked back since and it just keeps getting better.

These guys are the core contributors to so many fantastic open source products, they're transparent, respect your privacy and security above all else and it's resulted in an excellent all-round email service.

Curious what y'all think of Protonmail? I've been using their service partially (just within family and a few friends).

They lack two big (features/caveats?) as of now.

(1) searching for a text within the body of the email is not available (They can't read my email kinda thing.) and

(2) Inline images don't work - pretty bad flaw.

I do like :

(1) Simple and Fast UI for web app, and iOS App.

(2) Knowing that I'm supporting folks that care about privacy and freedom. They do open source some of their stuff and are now the maintainers of openpgp.


I have an account but don't really use it. The lack of support for desktop clients, while understandable, kills it for me. Also, for the record, they're now the maintainers of OpenPGPjs not OpenPGP [0].


> The lack of support for desktop clients

Their servers do not decrypt your email, thus doing so requires support from the client. The browser currently does this on your machine. Do desktop clients support decrypting email? Can we trust these clients won't store your emails in plain-text on your machine? Or that they won't mistakenly leak your information via some other channels?

I agree desktop client support is a nice feature to have, but I am not sure it is trivial to make happen.

Sorry, I should have been more clear. I'm aware that it's not trivial to implement since they rely so much on the aforementioned OpenPGPjs library and that they're also working on implementing IMAP support. I just meant that the lack of desktop client support killed it for me currently. Once I can plug it into Thunderbird, preferably with an extension of some kind to keep things encrypted, I'll switch to it as my primary email. Though I am curious as to why you think that's their problem. From what I can tell Protonmail promises that the mail is encrypted on their servers and that accessing it through the official methods (i.e. the website and mobile apps) is also encrypted. While I admire their apparent commitment to extending such promises to the desktop, I'm also surprised they didn't whip up an IMAP interface (which I image would be simpler; send the passphrase to decrypt the mailbox then send the emails like normal) and say "This is for unofficial access, we make no promises". I'm also iffy on the fact that they don't have an export function. Especially with GhostMail switching to enterprise-only, I am very wary about trusting a webmail service that won't let me back up my emails locally in case they "disappear".

>Do desktop clients support decrypting email?

This is the traditional workflow for PGP-encrypted email, and has been for decades. Protonmail chose to be incompatible with this established standard.

> Protonmail chose to be incompatible with this established standard.

They've supported receiving PGP-encrypted emails[1] and are working on IMAP support currently[2]. Would be nice for you to cite sources before making strong claims like "chose to be incompatible". Everything is a feature and needs time to implement.

[1] https://protonmail.com/support/knowledge-base/using-protonma...

[2] https://protonmail.uservoice.com/forums/284483-feedback/sugg...

Thanks for correcting me. HN won't let me edit my comment though :-(

Curious though, assuming usage as a personal email account, what would desktop clients get you that a good responsive web UI can't?

I use Protonmail and I like it.

Their web client is open source and MIT licensed. For more security it might be worth running it locally:


Why does FastMail charge a family account fee, thus making it more expensive to have two accounts under a family account than two individual accounts?

There's benefit that comes with the family account. I use one with wife and kids. You get shared address books and easy read/write access to others' folders you can configure as needed. So I have a folder in my IMAP tree that my wife can read (for bills etc.) and we both have read access to the kids' accounts. And we all share a family address book that I update once for everyone's benefit. In my experience, a family account is more than just a couple of individual accounts under one billing mechanism - it has technical advantages as well.

There is also the benefit of being able to use one custom domain, and have multiple accounts attached to it.

You would probably be paying for convenience (1 bill, contact sharing, etc...)

I moved from Google Apps to FastMail for six months or so. I'm back to Google Apps now. For me, I had a quite opposite experience...FastMail searching was much slower, and the return to folders instead of labels made organizing my mail more difficult. Additionally, GMail's Inbox organizing (slicing in Primary, Social, Promotions, etc) is invaluable when you receive many, many messages a day. Fastmail's interface, along with the increased spam messages which got through, simply didn't provide me with a good user experience and meant I was more likely to miss an email.


I had exactly the same experience.

The final straw for me was finding a solid android experience. Specifically, a client that didn't eat my phone battery whilst still providing the near instant notifications I've come to expect from Gmail. When using fastmail via imap in the 'gmail' app it didn't seem to get any push notifications and the polling was either too slow or too battery draining depending on the time interval configured. When I tried fastmail's webapp thing I found the searching and offline experience lacking. Maybe it's moved on. All the (free) 3rd party android imap clients I tried were horrible to use.

So I also came crawling back to Gmail. Which was a shame as fastmail's calendar is so much better, almost worth it alone.

I've come around to considering having 12 years of gmail online a liabilty. There's simply too much data there that can be used to steal someone's identity. At some point someone nasty is going to get into your email.

You feel that it's a liability compared to storing the 12 years of email elsewhere, or compared to just not storing 12 years of email? What about the utility of the archive compared to the liability?

I feel it's a liabilty to keep it online. Storing it offline is useful.

Why not just download your old mail and archive it then? Google provides an easy way to do this (Google Takeout).

As in, I don't see the problem with having more storage - you use only as much as you want.

Personally, I find having all my mail searchable from any computer useful. And Google does provide lots of security features (2FA, suspicious login detection, new login alerts, login audit logs etc)

I typically export mail regularly. In my case, I store them in a DEVONthink Pro Office database as that supports directly importing from Apple's Mail.app, has good search, and good cross-referencing support.

I really wish I followed this practice sooner as there's mail from the 90s I wish I still had. I've used e-mail continuously since 1991 so it would be a lot of mail. Disk space is the main reason why I didn't do it sooner.

Why would you use FastMail when hosting your own mail server has a much higher privacy level? It seems no better than gmail in this respect.

Because I have interests other than running my own email server. I am capable of running my own email server. I'm also capable of taking my own garbage to the dump every week. I'm capable of removing my own appendix if that is required (under self administered local anesthesia). I hire those things done because I have better things to do with my time. I got tired of keeping up with the latest anti-spam best practices. I can pay someone $15/month to make the weekly trip to the local dump saving me an hour every week (I believe the dump charges a dumping fee as well which makes the math more in my favor). I can pay someone else to go to medical school thus saving me the time it takes. I would rather play with my kids, and if I can ever get them to sleep I have plenty of other things I enjoy doing.

FastMail is a cheap and easy option to email. They provide some services that I value over what free accounts have. It is a compromise, but everything is. I freely admit that I was failing at administering my own email servers: I never did get some anti-spam thing in place so a few domains rejected everything I sent. I got about 100 spam messages in my inbox every day (my filters caught 3 for each they let through). With Fastmail everyone accepts my email, and I get about one spam message a week which I can handle.

> FastMail is a cheap and easy option to email.

So is spinning up a docker container with this all already configured... I just don't see the argument I guess, it's just too easy to do yourself. Instead you're getting ripped off and losing privacy. There's no reason to believe fastmail is any more private than GMail, staff can just as easily read and deliver your mail to whomever they please.

A medical degree takes years to get, this takes 10 minutes for a basic setup, an hour or two for a more advanced one, assuming you're in the industry already and know your way around.

And ensuring it stays running and updated and secure and backed up. Docker isn't magic. A server instance and the associated apps still need to be maintained. And you're either trusting the creator of that Docker image or digging into every security setting anyway.

Updated is usually barely a problem, there hasn't been a serious postfix vulnerability since 2011 or a dovecot one since 2013 (and even the 2013 one wouldn't necessarily affect you as an individual user). One update every 3-5 years is not exactly something I'd call a problem. I don't update unless there's a major vulnerability and it's one I'm affected by.

Rebuilding your docker when you hear about that is not exactly something I'd consider a big deal, but I guess if 2 minutes work every 3 years is worth giving away your privacy, then you do that.

Backup is a set and forget cron job (tarsnap mail dir), so I don't see how that's an issue.

You still have to update the OS or whatever you're running the mailserver on. You have to make sure it's not compromised nor DDosed, it doesn't run out of space, it doesn't crash or get stuck for whatever reason, etc etc.

Again, Docker isn't magic.

Updating the OS... usually a fairly rare occurence again, kernel vulnerabilities that affect you with minimal services exposed are quite rare, most vulnerabilities are local escalations and such which wouldn't affect just a mail server. When was the last remote root exploit in the linux kernel? Maybe SSH which would be the only other thing you might run... Neither is within my memory. I suspect these would be ever less frequent than mail service updates, if ever.

As for the rest those aren't really issues you need to actively watch, you'll just know when something goes wrong to take a look. I can't see running out of disk with just a mail service, crashes are... never and compromise/DDoS isn't really a risk if you secure it properly to begin with and update it that once every few years. It's really very hands off if you're not running any other services and just review the vulnerabilities.

I'm guessing this is even less of a problem for most of us though because I and probably many others around here already run a personal dev server which is kept up to date regularly, so I was speaking simply to adding mail functionality to an existing system previously.

> I and probably many others around here already run a personal dev server

Oh yeah, me too, and tbh it's enough of a pain already without having to deal with mail, spam and the likes.

There is a reason that companies like Heroku exist and prosper; it's the same reason personal mail servers never saw mass-adoption, despite being one of the first things you could do on the internet. The anecdote that you find it easier than most doesn't change the reality of the matter.

I just don't understand where the difficulty some people have in mind comes from so I'm trying to understand it better. You don't have to be bleeding edge to be secure against remote attacks, most of the configuration is trivial, I think more people would do it if it wasn't made out to be such a difficult thing for no real reason.

Maybe if someone made an integrated mail server it'd be more common.

> I just don't understand where the difficulty some people have in mind comes from so I'm trying to understand it better.

It's a pain in the ass from time to time, especially if you don't administer Linux boxes for a living. I've been running my own MTA for well over a decade, and have dealt with every one of the issues cited by the other people responding to you in this thread, as well as most cited by other people discussing this article in general, and a few (such as the advent of deliverability/spam-fighting tools like DKIM and DMARC) which I haven't seen anyone else mention. I haven't kept close track, but I'd say it's cost me altogether somewhere between one and two weeks of time over the years - and that doesn't count initial setup, because I did that back before you could just pick any of a dozen HOWTOs that'd take you through the whole process end-to-end.

For me, and apparently also for you, that tradeoff is worthwhile. (For me, not least because the amount of effort required has gone nearly to zero in the past few years. If that weren't true, I'm not sure I'd feel the same way.) For a lot of people, that tradeoff makes less sense than spending about the same, or a bit more, money, in order to have their mail infrastructure looked after by professionals who do it for a living. Granted, they have to deal with risks that we don't, like Google's habit of surprising its users with rather stupid UI changes, only some of which fail to last. But we have to deal with risks that they don't, too. We prefer control to convenience and are willing to spend time and effort to get the result we want, and that's okay. Others prefer convenience to control and would rather spend money to get the result they want, and that's okay, too. Different people have different needs.

If that's still confusing, I don't really know what to tell you. Sorry.

E-mail deliverability is one of my top concerns, and I don't trust myself to handle it as well or better than the experts working on Google's email platform. SPF, DKIM, DMARC etc. are fairly basic concepts to learn but I wouldn't call myself an expert in their implementation by any stretch of the imagination. That's to say nothing of the non-standard oddities that pop up with deliverability to certain networks, ISPs, etc. that require ongoing attention and that I don't want to have to deal with.

If you are willing to deal with the occasional hiccup and learn about the odd issue as it comes up, the above is not really a huge concern. But if you are like me and would give up a lot to avoid the horror of realizing some email(s) have not gone through at the worst possible time (i.e. on the day of an important business deadline, with no time to troubleshoot the root cause), entrusting your mail to a platform like Google or FastMail is a must.

The "tinkerer" aspect of me would like to run my own mail server and would enjoy knowing that it's fully within my control and configured exactly the way I want it. The pragmatist in me says, "No way!"

Native two factor auth (like U2F integration) alongside mobile apps would be the big ones.

Gmail scans your email to show you ads. That's how Google makes money from it. Fastmail doesn't show ads, you pay them money to do your email. Moving email off Google could also be a move towards not putting all your eggs in one basket. I think there's a valid incentive to move away from Gmail.

That, and all the complications that running your own email server brings with it. If you read the article, the author explains it very well.

> That, and all the complications that running your own email server brings with it. If you read the article, the author explains it very well.

I have to disagree, it sounds like he just had a crappy provider, avoiding blacklists is pretty much just a matter of having your RDNS, SPF and domainkeys configured properly in my experience. Pretty trivial stuff, really.

Yeah? And where is your server hardware located? If it's on a VPS somewhere, well, how can you trust them? If it's at home, it's extra space and electricity that's being used.

At the end of the day, email IS NOT secure. If you're paying for a service and they can say they're not reading your emails and they will respect your privacy, well that's good enough for me.

At home servers are extra space and electricity, AND potential outages if your ISP isn't 100% stable. I had outages sporadically for 2 weeks because a squirrel chewed through some coax outside my house. Im glad I didn't sporadically bounce emails for 2 weeks during that time. I'm sure a major provider has redundancy and controls in place for failovers... a single server in your house probably doesn't.

Why do you think they'll respect your privacy any more than gmail? I think that's a serious misconception. They have no way to guarantee that to you, so believing it is a rather bad idea. They could be sitting back and reading the latest issue of your personal emails and you'd have no way to tell, so I don't see how it can be argued that FastMail is at all superior in that regard.

because if you run your own mail server apparently you have a 50/50 shot of having literally none of your mail ever delivered.

I bought a house and run all my bills from my own mail server, so that certainly hasn't been my experience. You just need to configure it correctly and make sure your IP doesn't have a bad rep.

Not really true. I've been running my own email server for years, and it's actually really easy. After the initial setup, I don't think I've ever had and email end up non-delivered.

Security, Spam Filtering, Better web interface, native apps, two-factor auth, DR, etc.

These are just some of the reasons.

Spam filtering?

The post specifically mentions the maintenance overhead associated with running a self hosted server.

Maintenance is minimal, it's pretty much set and forget, add a cron job to update spamassassin, I get maybe 1 piece of spam in my inbox a week.

Configuration (at least using dovecot and postfix) is easy too once you get started.

I've always wondered about using OS X Server to handle my email on a Mac Mini. Looks like a pretty clean solution to run your own.

The author mentioned in the beginning that maintaining a server and fighting to keep it off of spam lists was too painful.

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