- 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
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.
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.
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'd just rather pay someone a small monthly/annual fee to do it for me, along with keeping my data private.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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 …
One of the biggest benefits to fastmail for me is the buttons are labelled with text on desktop.
- 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
Which to me has always been kind of weird because Google uses Linux internally for most of their workstations.
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.
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.
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?
So now they are independent again I expect they are a bit more averse to being bought out.
That's my hope :-)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Very talented and humble guy.
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.
Although, to be perfectly honest, I don't use any other product offered by Zoho.
It's a small thing, takes me all of 10 seconds, but I do notice it, every morning.
This year, things got much better for a few months, and now they are getting worse again....
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.
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.
- 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?
(Or was your comment tongue-in-cheek?)
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 :-)
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....)
I'd rather get spam once in awhile than turn my spam folder into a de facto secondary inbox.
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.
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!
It also supports training a filter on your specific email/spam patterns which works very well in my experience.
Now I'm with Mailbox.org, and they're really good. A little cheaper too.
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.
Spam filtering at most big providers is still abysmal.
I found pointing my MX records straight at Fastmail helped a lot with spam. See "If you use your own domain" in those instructions.
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.
Curious, do you think you would have perceived the price differently if it had been presented as $3/mo?
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.
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 made this for Stylish to fix the issue:
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) https://kolabnow.com/ (just the lite version for webmail)
both through Thunderbird and K9 clients. Perfectly happy with them.
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.
My plan is to move to fastmail but and only migrate across the last year or so of messages. Google's data liberation front 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.
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
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
> 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 ;-)
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.
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.
Current market share mobile OSes: https://www.netmarketshare.com/operating-system-market-share...
Optimism is fine, but after so many years...
Now, when Windows Mobile turned out to be a failure. But not couple years ago and definitely not when they were buying Nokia.
UPDATE Note: Office 365 already supported Macs, and alternative browsers.
Been pretty happy with them for my needs. YMMV of course.
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.
But I am trying to move out of it.
Austrlia is spying on your email on Fastmail the same way NSA is reading your gmail.
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.
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"
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.
Migrating away from GMail for privacy reasons and he still ends up with Google for functionality...
Totally agreed. I'm a Fastmail's happy user, glad to pay for such a great service.
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.
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.
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.
This is the traditional workflow for PGP-encrypted email, and has been for decades. Protonmail chose to be incompatible with this established standard.
They've supported receiving PGP-encrypted emails and are working on IMAP support currently. 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.
Curious though, assuming usage as a personal email account, what would desktop clients get you that a good responsive web UI can't?
Their web client is open source and MIT licensed. For more security it might be worth running it locally:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Again, Docker isn't magic.
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.
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.
Maybe if someone made an integrated mail server it'd be more common.
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.
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!"
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.
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.
These are just some of the reasons.
Configuration (at least using dovecot and postfix) is easy too once you get started.