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Ask HN: FastMail vs. ProtonMail?
44 points by doorbellguy on Mar 12, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 41 comments
I'm looking to de-google myself and these are two services that impress me.

>Fastmail offers 25 GB storage, full mobile sync with push: mail, contacts and calendars and your own domain name at $5/month

>Protonmail offers 5 GB storage, up to 1000 messages per day, send encrypted messages to external recipients, own domain and email aliases for 4€/Month

These are the comparable plans - price wise, but I'm honestly unsure which one to try. Any personal comments are appreciated. If you use either, I'd love some feedback if you may.

From Wikipedia:

"ProtonMail maintains and owns its server hardware and network in order to avoid trusting a third party. It maintains two data centres in Lausanne and Attinghausen (in the former K7 military bunker under 1,000 meters of granite rock) for redundancy. Since the data centres are located in Switzerland, they are legally outside of US and EU jurisdiction. Under Swiss law, all surveillance requests from foreign countries must go through a Swiss court and are subject to international treaties. Prospective surveillance targets are notified and can appeal the request in court."

"As of December 2018, FastMail and all other Australian companies are subject to the Assistance and Access Bill, which compells them to provide backdoors for accessing encrypted communications if warranted by law enforcement. The company stated that concerns over the bill has affected their business."

So ProtonMail responds to Swiss warrants, and Fastmail to Australian warrants. Is either jurisdiction clearly better?

The Australian ones come with a gag order.

Fastmail doesn’t even provide encryption in the first place, does it? There wouldn’t be anything to backdoor; you’d still be pgp’ing yourself

I think this settles it.

I request you don’t judge too quickly, Fastmail have responded that it doesn’t affect them directly and at the same time they are fighting for users on this on every front.

“As we have stated in the past, FastMail’s business is not directly affected by this legislation and we won’t be making changes to our technology or policies in response to this act.”


Thank you!

FastMail has been sponsoring the development of JMAP, which is a modern replacement to IMAP and SMTP. Naturally their service supports JMAP. This is the first major step in modernizing email in a long time.

There was a recent FOSDEM talk by the author about the recent IETF standards ratification for JMAP[1].

[1] https://fosdem.org/2019/schedule/event/email_standards/

For me, ProtonMail’s inability to support standard clients without an awkward bridge app completely kills it. One of email’s biggest positive points is its client agnostic nature which makes it cheap and dead easy to use anywhere. Being tied to a web client, as ubiquitous as web browsers may be, is a marked downgrade.

That's what you get for privacy. Honestly, the bridge works so flawlessy on my Mac and Linux machines, I don't mind that it is there.

Except it is snakeoil.

oh so you can't use it with something like thunderbird or mailspring ? what about mobile apps?

You can only use the Protonmail mobile app.

I’ve recently switched to ProtonMail. Here are my takeaways:

- web client and mobile clients are functional for day to day work.

- IMAP integration (only in paid version) is a SNAFU and basically does not work.

- support responds to emails, but slowly (takes them 24-48 hours).

- importing messages is possible via the (beta) ImportExport tool. The tool is not 100% stable yet, so prepare to waste half a day on it.

Honestly, I was disappointed by how some of their software is garbage (esp. the IMAP integration). As security starts with good software practices, it makes me wonder if their service is actually that secure...

Here's my experience with Fastmail:

-Web client is excellent and truly fast. I'd rank it better than gmail, though prior to the latest redesign at gmail that made it an order of magnitude slower, gmail was tied or better. Haven't used their mobile client, but the reviews for the Android version are pretty grim (but the service works flawlessly with the gmail app, and presumably any other IMAP client).

-I've yet to have an issue with using any email client.

-Only needed to contact support once, but they got back quickly: less than an hour, despite being on the other side of the planet from Australia.

-No issue importing, at least from gmail/gsuite.

Similar observations. However, I have not tried to use IMAP or Import function. For IMAP, you need to use another software which does the encryption and communication with the server one one side and provides IMAP server to your application on the other side. So, it is an artifact of security application and not because they can not do straight IMAP. Overall, I am happy though..

Yep, I was talking about that special software for IMAP (Protonmail Bridge), which they provide and which is very broken.

The IMAP bridge is very slow and I guess, if you are someone that needs to retrieve emails every minute, that can get annoying. Otherwise in my experience, the bridge worked without big issues, using Linux (Manjaro and Arch) and macOS.

It has problems serving a number of clients for to inconsistent protocols

One more disappointment with ProtonMail - the web client's message search does not work on message body or on attachments... After moving from Gmail, searching became harder.

There is also tutanota.com based in Germany. There pricing is here: https://tutanota.com/pricing

I use tutanota and they are great! More free strange space than proton mail too (1 gb).

edit: I didn't release how cheap the premium was and just upgraded.

> More free strange space

I love this typo!

Both are very usable. I set both up for people that I care enough about to get them away from Google.

Both are monitored and subject to government requests. I see this discussion a lot, but if you aren't running the mail server, you won't know when someone is reading your emails. It is on the end users to encrypt the payload (gpg, 7-zip, etc...)

Just my own opinion, as I have a deep rooted devious streak and worked for big brother. Don't trust a mail providers payload encryption. Do it yourself.

Both of them occasionally have hiccups on their web infrastructure according to my monitoring tools. Consider using an IMAPs client if you have concerns about availability.

Fastmail has DKIM, static webpage, shared email folders, DNS and more. Support is also very good. Choose fastmail

My experience with protonmail as a personal email is great. However, my experience with their paid service as a business email has been less than stellar. I had to switch to fastmail because I was disappointed with their service.

For one, if they automatically lock your account, there is no way to access your email. Setting up the bridge for your email client is a pain, so no one really uses it. The customer support only replies one email per day no matter the emergency.

The second is that every alias is extra cash. In fastmail, you can create any amount of alias and its the same price. Their emails are super fast, and you can tell they have lots of business clients from their excellent customer support.

If you have multiple users, its much more cumbersome to setup those emails as the master admin in protonmail. In fastmail, you are just a few clicks away.

So in conclusion. Use protonmail for your personal email. Use fastmail for business emails.

Being banned by Russia has to be a vote of confidence for ProtonMail.

was just going to mention not being able to recieve mail from .ru addresses via ProtonMail.

My experience is that Protonmail works, and that Fastmail works great.

In the end the performance tradeoffs for Protonmail were just not worth it to me.

Related: when you run out of storage, what's the best way to archive old emails?

Currently I just save .eml to standard backups (not offline, but not email-connected in any way).

I suppose my ideal setup would be some sort of secondary IMAP server that I run, serving archived emails from disk, that clients can access and transparently merge with the primary server provided by the email provider.

Is anything similar possible? Anything better than what I'm doing today?

There are other non-Google options... Not sure if the storage is necessarily comparable, but Rackspace starts at $3, Microsoft $4, Zoho at €1.

While Rackspace seems like a company on a downward slide I’ve used their email before and it was solid. Microsoft of course is Microsoft, everyone knows what Exchange is like and it’s up to you if you want them to have your data. I have no experience with Zoho, but they’re definitely the cheapest.

Apples and oranges.

ProtonMail has focus on security, encryption and privacy.

FastMail has focus on features, standards-support and end-user experience.

As always: Pick what suits your needs best.

I haven't used ProtonMail, and I don't have much of substance to say about FastMail except that I'm a happy customer. The recent Australia backdoor thing concerns me, but I'll wait to see what the company does. FastMail already has access to all of my data anyway, but I didn't sign on for silent government access at the same time...

Edit: I use Gmail at work and much as it pains me, I have to say that I prefer Gmail's interface.

I really like ProtonMail. I switched last month. Protonvpn is good too. I’ve had no problems at all.

The security/privacy stuff is what does it for me. Just knowing that they are serious about redundancy and are in a bunker in Switzerland makes it feel like a Swiss bank account with that famously Swiss sense of privacy and security. Love it.

I am a happy fastmail user. I've had zero issues using it for several years.

My only issue with Proton Mail is that so many sites don't allow me to sign up with a Proton Mail address. They seem more than happy to accept Gmail but for some reason don't like Proton Mail.

Never ever had that issue with Protonmail so I'm very curious where this happened for you.

Mind to name and shame?

The first one was Instagram. I tried too many times and had my IP blocked from signing up with Instagram.

> 1000 messages per day

Most people should get more than thousand emails everyday if they sign up for any service anywhere with that email address.

Or Zoho for $1/month.

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