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[flagged] The One-Name Email, a Silicon Valley Status Symbol, Is Wreaking Havoc (wsj.com)
30 points by berkeleyjunk 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

> Mr. Pham had fired off the email to a first-name-only address at Snap, assuming it was the company’s No. 2 executive.

So some people try to guess email-addresses of other people and sometimes the emails end up in the wrong place?

And this is news?

You don't need a firstname@ for that to happen.

I have back from the nineties firstnamelastname@hotmail.com of my pretty common Northern European name. I get all sorts of private emails intended for other people.

"Even techies are having a hard time figuring out how to disrupt the naming convention of corporate email."

This article is a painful joke. I wish it was satire. Maybe it is and its soo dry, that it's actually hilarious.

..."The growing pains usually set in when startups reach 25 to 50 employees, as names begin to overlap, according to Josh Walter, who has designed email services for companies for the past eight years." I want that job, creating email address standards for startups.

I spent all night focused on the talks about nuclear disarmament of North Korea and CNN's coverage thereof. This is exactly what I needed now. /s

Parents: If you want to help your kids acquire prestigious email addresses, don't give them a relatively common name like "Peter"!

On the other hand, I have (first initial)(surname)@gmail.com and you wouldn't believe how many misdirected messages I get for people with the same initial and surname as me...

I have firstname@gmail.com. I could tell you all about how easy you get off.

Interesting fact: most emails I incorrectly receive is because whoever creates the accounts/makes the orders/etc knowingly provides websites with my email instead of their own.

All in all it’s pretty crazy.

I have reject@gmail.com crazy, crazy amount of spam from dummy accounts and/or developer emails.

I have a fun one. I own syslog.com (since 1997) and I get all kinds of email sent from mis-configured routers and other devices meant to write to syslog, but somehow it escapes and ends up in my inbox.

The problem with that is many times these are automated and poorly configured, so I'll get hundreds of emails a minute from really badly broken setups. I generally email support at the domain owners but most of the time I have to blacklist them at the server.

lastname@gmail.com here. I really don't understand people. Especially when I get invoices and/or important-looking reminders.

I have last name at gmail too and I can tell you, we win on misdirected mail due to people typing `firstname lastname@gmail.com`

Isn't that called phishing?

I sometimes do that as a joke, kind of a revenge not being the first one to get the email address.

That's the beauty of having a completely unique Firstname Lastname. The downside is that my entire life is easily accessible on the interwebs. My high school baseball scores from 15 years ago are on the third page of google.

I know exactly what you mean - my full name is globally unique, so far as I can tell, and everywhere I go it is always available for use as a handle. That does make it unusually easy to look me up, but that's been true for a long time, and I'm okay with it.

"Peter" is fine, as long as there's also an elaborate middle name. Mr. P. Harpsichord Smith will never have trouble getting a distinctive email address.

Good old Harpy, what a guy.

I can speak from experience that using your middle name creates it's own set of super annoying issues.

First, having a "one name email" is a needlessly complication and a narcissism certificate. No, you're not the only Peter/Steve/Michael/John/Anne/Carol in this company. Even if you just started. Deal with it.

If your name is rare enough that's fine, but it's better to keep to a pattern. Also use aliases (billing@, legal@, etc).

A former manager of mine at a big US bank ended up with the email address like peter@megabank.com. AFAIK, he is the only person out of 250,000 with a single name email address.

The email policy used to be that people from acquired companies would keep their original email address whereever possible, just switch to the bank's domain.

So in my friend's case, no narcissism, just luck.

I have a first.last gmail address. I have gotten a few dozen emails intended for others, notably including legal papers for a divorce.

One thing I learned from getting other people's emails is that some websites let you pay for things without email confirmation, but require you to receive the email to access it. Nexon game points or something? I tried to report the screwup, but the site wouldn't let you contact them without a login.

I've also got a first last address (although with Outlook* ) and a 4-letter alias attached.

I only use it for stuff I don't want to clog up my vanity domains with but that email account has become a swamp of notifications of signups to random services I've never used, whoever signed up trying to scam those services, and those services contacting the scammer to tell them they aren't allowed to use the service anymore because of their chargeback/non-payment/scummyness. Along with a variety of bouncebacks from email worms (in 2018!!) a whole bunch of more innocent but equally irritating accounts being attached.

I used to try to help out companies this was happening to by giving them a heads-up, resetting & changing the account pwd and suggesting ways of mitigating the issue (hello doordash) but these days I can't be bothered... My next freebie email is going to be a random 64 character alpha numeric string to minimalize those collisions.

* it's actually okay, honestly!

I experienced a PayPal screwup like this once. Although I never clicked the confirmation email, the account was apparently still activated and I got purchase notifications for a little while.

I guess you could just "reset password".

RPI gave out usernames using the first five letters of the last name and the first initial. The result was, I, a lowly undergrad, got hughes@rpi.edu and a professor named Greg Hughes, who was around long before me, had hugheg@rpi.edu. That was funny. All I got out of it were a few emails from students in his classes.

One-name is lame. Long live 3 initials!

Yes.. and who actually cares what their work email address is? It doesn't indicate any real power or other valuable prowess.

Max nerd street cred comes with getting something sleek like <yourname>.com, or <firstname>@<lastname>.com. Even getting that doesn't seem like a significant social status signal.

I feel like I must be missing something.. :)

I have https://jake.tl but can’t think of a good email at that domain to put in my From: line. I think me@jake.tl is lame, jake@jake.tl is repetitive, and root@jake.tl is too faux-oldschool.

Seems like the 'trend' is hi or hello @x.com

For personal domains I just wildcard so I can use whatever fits the situation best. support@ contact@ name@ etc.

For proper street cred, you should of course set up your MTS with a whole system of special-purpose and single-use mailboxes. <hacker-news-17290985@jake.tl>

* http://lifewithqmail.org/lwq.html#extension-addresses

How about eponymous@jake.tl?

Vanity domains can make you stand out from a crowd too! You can book domains like "backend.guru" for maximum HR impact

If you're really lucky, your name contains an A and your surname matches a ccTLD - can't get much shorter than firstl@stna.me

Even firstname@TLD addresses aren't that rare, though their usefulness is hindered by overly restrictive validation.

Eritrea is really, really missing out by not currently having a registrar for their ccTLD.

I once contracted at a company that gave out random three letter initials to people. Prized ones were initials such as SQL, TCP and the like.


When C-Cube Microsystems was acquired by LSI Logic, we all got to keep our e-mail addresses. Early C-Cube employees had first/last name initials as addresses. I ended up with re@lsil.com, which is a pretty sweet e-mail address.

Later, when Abhi Talwalker became CEO, all e-mail addresses were changed to firstname.lastname@lsil.com. My manager was pretty unhappy because his last name was Van Den Crommenacker.

Even though I've been using my own domains for my email for nearly the past 20 years, so can use whatever local part I want, I long ago switched to using "firstname.lastname@" instead of "firstname@". And that was just to prevent dictionary attacks. Luckily my surname is not that common, which helps.

I don't think I've ever received any email intended for somebody else.

In grad school, my university let us choose our own email aliases. So I had nick@utk.edu and nick@tennessee.edu for a while. That was pretty nice. And since there was no limit on aliases, I also grabbed admin@utk.edu. That one backfired because I started getting some official looking things I probably shouldn't have, so I released that address back into the pool.

Good times. You could even have 5. A coworker snagged michael@ though.

Hot take: assign everyone the address that's the SHA256 of the first and last names. That's the only way that's fair, right?

To avoid collisions, use birthdate as salt.

Posted in jest of course, but the assumption that the combination of given name, family name, and birth date is unique has caused plenty of issues in the past, which is why most nations assign some kind of numeric identifier to each citizen.

Just ask the two Jessica Ishaks who live in Sydney how annoying it is [1] (on a side note, doesn't seem super clever to publish your name, area, and birthdate on the Daily Mail).

There's also the two Lisa S Davis' in NYC [2].

And we can't forget the two Emily Hughes' in England [3].

[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4445950/Women-birthd...

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/03/identity-the...

[3] https://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/student-universit...

Note that you shall never assume that the birth numbers or SSNs are unique: they are often NOT.

I've heard that they are not unique in the US and a few stories from my Databases course professor about how you should always assign your own unique IDs to users. Birth numbers change.

> never assume that the birth numbers or SSNs

That's a parochial view, US SSNs are not unique but Norwegian SSNs (fødselsnummer) are unique. In Norway it is composed of a six digit birthdate plus a five digit code (personnummer).

They may be unique, but do they change?

Google translates the Norwegian Wikipedia entry as saying "The last digit in the individual number indicates the gender of the person - different digits for men and equal numbers for women."

Does this change for transgender people, or for those who undergo sex reassignment surgery?

I wasn't able to find information about this for Norwegian. The equivalent entry for Sweden, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_identity_number_(Swed... , says :

> In exceptional cases, the number may be changed later in life, typically because the date of birth or the registration of gender of the child were in error. If a person undergoes full gender reassignment surgery later in life, the serial number is changed to make the 'gender digit' (no. 9) conform with their new physical sex.

Having predictable email addresses of a set format is both a boon and a bane.

It's a great way to ensure that you get a bunch of spam from random people looking for jobs etc. landing in your inbox after guessing your email address.

I find the only real status symbol is a three-letter email name, though only if you're on a big provider or some other big email system.

For company mail just use something unique, nobody cares.

Having one-name emails is fine until about 5 people. It's a startup, it's fun. After that, grow up, you're a company, get a real email policy.

So basically people make weird assumptions or take wild guesses about an email address and havoc ensues.

> He couldn’t get the email at Science, the tech incubator, because it was already taken by another Peter, who had co-founded the firm, Peter Pham. Mr. Pham had previously tried to get colleagues at the incubator to call Mr. Szabo by his last name to secure his status as The Peter of Peter@science-inc.com.

I puked in my mouth a bit when I read this.

What a dramatic article over something so silly. WSJ has really gone downhill.


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