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Ask HN: How to move away from Gmail
120 points by AmazingWill on Feb 12, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 141 comments
I'm currently attempting to move away from Gmail to a email provider that respects my privacy.

Can anyone on HN suggest a online service that protects my privacy, has IMAP support and is preferably free?

In addition is it possible to delete most of the data Google currently ties to my profile?

TANSTAAFL. Google doesn't not respect your privacy, but there is a risk that could change. Personally, my money is on that Google's ad revenue is best protected by them respecting their users privacy.

Any mail host carries the risk of a privacy breach, either accidental, such as a hacker attack, less so, such as selling the service to someone who cares less or completely on purpose - simply turning around and selling your data.

All of these scenarios are vastly less likely to happen for Google in my risk analysis.

"Google's ad revenue is best protected by them respecting their users privacy."

Their economic incentives are aligned in exactly the opposite direction. The more they know about you the more money they make, ergo the recent privacy policy changes which now tie your data across all of their services. In my opinion this is already a privacy violation, even if they don't sell my data to unscrupulous marketers. It should be opt-in. I believe the relevant quote is from Eric Schmidt, ""Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it."

If you read their privacy policy, there is an entire section called "Information we share" that is worth reading. It's short, so that's good.

But still, I don't completely buy the notion that as long as Google doesn't resell my data to some "unscrupulous" marketer they are respecting my privacy. If at some point in the future they buy-in to Zuckerbergs "everyone should be open about everything" philosophy and create another privacy policy that isn't opt-in... I guess we're all screwed.

First, I do not consider munching my data algorithmically to serve me ads is any more a breach of privacy than SpamAssassin feeding my email into a Bayesian corpus of "ham".

Many people seem to have a problem with the outcome of the process being ad revenue rather than spam suppression, I emphatically do not share that concern.

> But still, I don't completely buy the notion that as long as Google doesn't resell my data to some "unscrupulous" marketer they are respecting my privacy. If at some point in the future they buy-in to Zuckerbergs "everyone should be open about everything" philosophy

My argument centres around the fact that they already have a very profitable business model based on this data and thus they are unlikely to "pull a Facebook".

If they start changing direction on the business model, chances are that it will be foreshadowed some time in advance, and luckily it's downright trivial to switch mail providers as opposed to "switching" away from Facebook.

it's downright trivial to switch mail providers

Yes, but on the other hand, that only prevents them from getting any new emails; they still have all your emails up to the moment you decide to change.

While I'm sure the wrong people can do nasty things with a large back catalogue of e-mails, for marketing purposes knowing what you're up to now is vastly more valuable. Which means that if Google start scaring people and they leave, their current, profitable business model is hurt.

Could you tell us more about your analysis? I would especially like to know if you consider the extent of Google's collection of users' private data.

First, do note that I also talk about a bet ("my money is on.."). The core of the analysis is that Google with Adsense has a revenue system that makes their interest showing me the most relevant ad. The more they know, the better the ad, the more revenue. The "bet" part is that this revenue is worth more than shady marketers would be able to extract from the data.

The best way for Google to know a lot about me is for them to not give me any good reason not to let them track me, scan my email etc. Any meaningful breach of privacy will erode that faith. Regular ads don't have that faith (an adblocker is invariably the plugin I install), Facebook don't have it (Facebook disconnect is the second one). Google can very easily be added to that list.

Also, Google is large enough and public enough that any significant erosion of privacy will trigger public intervention. A kind of "too big to fail".

Letting someone read my mail and track me across the internet is a loss of privacy. There is no need for a breach or erosion of privacy, because by using gmail I'm giving up my privacy in exchange for a free email service. That's simply the deal.

The question is, does this undeniable loss of privacy matter and can we know how great that loss will eventually be? I think it does matter, partly because we cannot know or control the extent of the loss and we cannot easily take it back (if at all).

There's also a great security risk if so much sensitive information is stored in one place. Google is certainly more competent than I am in securing their database. But the incentive for someone to steal it from them is orders of magnitude greater as well.

I have successfully left Google and Gmail. I began to worry about the amount of information Google had of mine (about 8gb worth of email). I now pay for email. I have thought about setting up a mail server - perhaps that will come in the future.

I have also installed tiny tiny rss (because I used Google Reader) on a server. I also installed Coppermine to host photos. So far, I am very pleased with my shift away from Google. I also try to use duckduckgo and scroogle as much as possible. I will say that I believe Google does have the best search engine. Google search has been the hardest habit to break. Perhaps there is another search engine that respects its users privacy?

I worry about OAuth. I think we should battle to end OAuth - forcing users to be part of a social network/service to use their service is a horrible practice.

I run my own mailserver on a linode VPS. For my own personal use, it's extremely stable and hasn't been down once for the 4 months I've been using it. I've got fail2ban, logwatch, and logcheck set up to monitor security. The distro is ubuntu server. They have a great guide for setting up postfix and dovecot.

Remember, if you aren't paying, you're not a customer, you're the product.

Remember, if you aren't paying, you're not a customer, you're the product.

I use Hacker News without (as far as I know) being their product.

I pay for Cable TV and yet I'm still their product.

It's not as clean-cut as that; you need to read the small letters and always use caution, paid service or not.

> I use Hacker News without (as far as I know) being their product.

Your HN usernames are required on the YCombinator app forms. There is a good chance that they will go through your comment history to get a feel of your personality. I would think that this figures in their "buying" process (they are buying a part of your company after all). If you look at it like that, you are the product.

More likely than that, for the average user, is the fact that every contribution to a free, search engine indexed content site is 'unpaid work' and your content becomes the product that brings in new visitors and interest who search for the startup/web terms we all use.

Of course if you support a site, you'll be happy to help promote it. But what happens when you change your opinion on a matter that becomes important/illegal in the public eye, without the option to remove your now-offending content? Or if you plain just want to stop supporting a site? If people are guarded when making comments because of this risk, is the free service improved or worsened?

Email, picture or opinion, make no bones about it - our content is always product in some way. Content lock-in should rarely be tolerated. I'm surprised it is here, TBH. I happen to greatly appreciate this community, but I in no way agreed to give ownership of my thoughts in return for the right to interact. I'd rather pay with a content export/removal option than hand over the sum total of what little wisdom I have.

I find it interesting that the terms of use (licensing and all) are nowhere to be found. Barring implied licenses (I don't know if there is relevant case law), you could probably force them to remove all your comments with a simple DMCA takedown request, since you hold their copyright.

In addition to what davyjones says, the users of news.yc are the generators of the content. We make submissions, we comment. In this sense, we are the human resources of news.ycombinator.com. Our output is the product, but we are working the fields for it.

Thanks for the encouragement!

Many are just coming to the realization that they are the product. Hopefully people will care and the established model will implode.

There's more to OAuth than that, though, let's not throw out the baby with the bath water. Its original purpose - letting services access user accounts on other services without forcing the users to give out their password and complete control - still makes perfect sense and is often extremely useful.

Using OAuth as a authentication solution is the dangerous part; personally, I won't sign up for anything that doesn't provide either email/password or OpenID as an alternative, but I don't see what else can one do to "battle" that.

What email service do you use now?

I'm just curious -- what specific privacy intrusions are you worried about? Google lists its privacy policy here[1]. Also, web based email services can always look at your personal content, if not today, tomorrow. If you really need absolute privacy, I'd recommend setting up your server. You can retain your Gmail address, by just setting up the right forwarding options.

[1]: http://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/privacy/

Maybe it's just me, but I'm scared by this sentence from the Google ToS:

"When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content." -- http://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/terms/

Last time people spread panic about this exact same phrasing was when Dropbox updated it's terms, it's needed to provide their services.

Taken in isolation this could sound scary, but as zalew says here[1] it's needed for them to operate. Seriously, think about what would happen if google suddenly started publishing your (private) content. They'd lose all trust from the wider population. For them to publish or publicly display your content in a way that would violate your privacy would be an absolutely stupid move. Google hasn't gotten to where they are now by being absolutely stupid. [1]http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3582421

Thats pretty standard with most web services.

In their new privacy policy they say this:

"We use the information we collect from all of our services to provide, maintain, protect and improve them, to develop new ones, and to protect Google and our users".

Develop new services sounds pretty open ended to me.

(Disclosure: I am the CEO of Zoho) We would invite people to try Zoho Mail. We have come a long way in the past few years, and we are investing in a ton of R&D to ensure we are world-class.

We offer our consumer edition free-of-cost and ad-free and we intend to continue this indefinitely, and we charge only business customers. This is the same policy we follow with our Office suite as well - whatever we offer free, we offer it ad-free.

Needing an email address to sign up for your email hosting is slightly ironic ;)

How do you respect privacy any more than GMail does? Your email isn't hosted in the EU, what extra protection is in place?

And more relevant - how do you ensure that you will keep this respect?

While I'm very sympathetic to your business model, it's still a loss-leader for your business offering. Can you guarantee that you will never attempt to monetize this (probably) huge and growing dataset? Tomorrow, next year, and (especially) after a private equity manager starts waving cheques with many zeros on them in under your nose?

This is the clincher for me. Anyone trying to compete with Google needs to be up front and detailed about how they handle your privacy, and what they'll do to protect you.

Disclaimer: I work for Google, this is my personal opinion, yadda yadda yadda.

I've used (and continue to use) Fastmail for many years behind a personal domain.

To call Fastmail reliable is a bit of a laugh. They've had at least three severe outages in my time there (we're talking 24+ hours without mail access). To their credit, nothing was lost in the end, however I was fuming by the end of the last one and determined to switch to Gmail. However inertia has kept me from doing so -- last time I checked it was tricky in Gmail to import a complicated set of folders like I have and retain the structure, so it's always been something I plan to get around to once I have time. Yeah right.

FWIW, I don't think there's been a significant outage since the Opera purchase. And I'm quite pleased with what I've seen of FM's beta interface.

I've done a few migrations to Gmail/Google Apps, I'm actually in the middle of one right now. It's pretty easy to retain your folder structure, especially if you have IMAP and are going to Google Apps. Nested Labels has been moved from Labs to a standard feature. I think there is a still a 40 char folder path limit, so make sure your folder names are short enough before migration, e.g., rename "Mailing Lists" to "Lists".

Google has the Migration for Microsoft Exchange tool, which does IMAP sync with any normal IMAP server. The tool is Windows-only, they used to have a web-based version but they discontinued it (WTF Google?!). It requires 2-legged OAuth, which requires Google Apps for Business. But Google Apps for Business has a free trial with no billing info required. So what I do is sign up for Google Apps Free, upgrade to Business, do the migration, and downgrade to Free.

If your mail in stored in a mail client (POP3-style), you can add Google Apps IMAP to your mail client, and drag and drop your folders/mail from the old account to Google IMAP. Be sure to hold down the Ctrl key (or whatever) to copy not move. This method also works if you are going to normal Gmail.

There is also imapsync, a Perl command line tool, and a few other tools that do things like Maildir to IMAP sync.

" it was tricky in Gmail to import a complicated set of folders like I have and retain the structure"

I did it through a client (mail.app), synching with IMAP. It worked flawlessly.

Just out of curiosity, which aspect of Google's privacy policy seems fishy to you?

I think any way you look at it, there is a basic compromise you make with Gmail: either Google holding all of your info, or someone being able to hack into your account due to security vulnerabilities. Also, not to mention the tools and email filters Google provides.

During last few month Google has shown its true face and it is not pretty. It is very clear now that they are under the impression that there are no viable alternatives to their services. My main reason for moving off Gmail is a need for clear relationship with my provider. I want to pay for the services I receive in order to be able to complain when something goes wrong or when there is something I don't like. I don't want 'but it is free...' argument showed in my face when new design is forces upon me, email is down for a whole day or there are drastic changes to privacy policy.

If you are looking for Gmail replacement definitely try out fastmail.fm

Depends on what you consider respect of privacy. If you mean any provider that doesn't use software to scan your email for keywords, then that rules out any that incorporate a spam filter, and I can't think of any that don't.

I personally don't see how targeted advertising is any more intrusive than spam filtering. Sophisticated spam filters scan for keywords and classify words based which emails you read and reply to, emails from contacts whose emails you read and reply to, etc.

It's all automated in either case. Nobody at Google is reading your mail.

Why do you think nobody is reading his mail? In September of 2010 an employee was dismissed for spying on the mail and Google Voice calls of four underage teenagers he had been meeting in real life. There have to be people at Google who have authority to read read the mail of users for less scandalous reasons for this to even be possible.

This will be the case for any mail provider. If you host yourself you still count on the fact that traffic to your server isn't being snooped on and always have the possibility of the authorities going in and snatching your box if they need to see your email (that won't happen with Google, but Google will comply with any requests and turn over your mail).

Encrypt your email if you want privacy. For even better privacy, don't use email at all (encrypted or not the headers need to be in the clear).

always have the possibility of the authorities going in and snatching your box if they need to see your email

Encrypting your incoming email[1] fixes that particular problem. It's still not as good as getting others to use PGP, but on the other hand, it doesn't require getting others to use PGP ;)

[1]: https://grepular.com/Automatically_Encrypting_all_Incoming_E...

Microsoft's Office 365 online office suite has an Outlook webmail client which was flawless well when I gave it a shot using Firefox. I think it costs $6/mo, no ads, no spying, because you pay for it. I don't know how well the search and spam filters work.


Here's a demo video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOpCmUXLmTA

Note: This is _not_ the same thing as Hotmail.

(Disclaimer: I work for MS)

It's $5/mo (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/office365/compare-plans.aspx). If that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that you get:

  * No ads
  * 24/7 phone support
  * Uptime SLA
  * Proper mobile support (everything supports Exchange w/ proper syncing, push email, device wipe, searching the server, etc better than IMAP)
  * Calendaring and other Exchange features
  * Great webmail (I like the latest version of OWA a lot)
  * Custom domain support
  * Etc
I want my email provider's business model to be getting dollars from me. If I didn't work for MS I perhaps would have done some more research into everything everyone else is mentioning, but I've been very happy with Office 365's email hosting and haven't needed to do any comparison shopping.

$6/month to match Google Apps features (Docs, Chat, Sites, anti-virus). Plus the $6/month doesn't include phone support ($5/month does). $10 adds phone support, but you lose Docs editing. They spent way too much time creating complicated pricing.

Google Apps for Business gets you all the features of P1 and E1, for $50/year ($4.17/month), or $5/month if you pay monthly. And Google Apps Free gets you most of the features at $0/month.

Also, Office 365 has silly User Agent checking, they don't support any Linux or Chrome on Mac, even though they support Firefox and Chrome on Windows and Firefox on Mac [1]. My understanding is if you change the User-Agent string it works in Linux.

Silly pricing, silly compatibility restrictions, less features at a higher cost than Google Apps. I'm not getting the appeal.

[1] http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/office365-enterprises/ff6525...

Just because you are paying for the service does not mean that they respect your privacy. You can also pay for Google Apps, but what you get is not worth the money. Depends more on the company than on the pricing model.

(This is just a general hint - not against Microsoft. I don't know how they do their job.)

Microsoft advertises Office 365 / Outlook by saying that unlike Gmail, they don't "peek" at your email for ads.

The "Gmail man" ad:


That was an internal video to try raise morale in Microsoft and get some people switch, it's pretty safe to assume gmail reads your emails as much as their spam filters does. But as well as doing the spam filtering on the results it does ads.

Yeah, just looking at mail to model spam is one thing. Looking at it to model the user's life and interests is quite another.

Ads can be disabled for Google Apps accounts, but as should be obvious any provider that provides spam filtering will already be "peeking" at your email. Perhaps in part to their ad relevancy system, Google's spam detection is best of breed.


Why not host your own? It's not that hard. I run my own using exim4 + dovecot. It's pretty easy to set up. Plus, as a bonus I set up mutt on my server as well so when I am somewhere else I can just ssh into my box and read my mail.

This is much more of a pain that it seems. To ensure deliverability you need to ensure that you manage SPF/Domainkeys records, that you're not running an open relay, and configure your own spam filtering. It's all quite easy to mess up, so I'd only recommend it if you know what you're doing. Your time is probably worth more than the few currency units/month for someone like fastmail.fm to do it properly.

I used to run a setup like this for a while. Spam filtering is the most annoying part of it, so I soon outsourced that (first to google postini, then to spamhero.com). But then I realized that my e-mail is now flowing through these services anyway, in fact, e-mail is unencrypted and flows through many ISPs which all can read it if they want to be evil -- so I might as well outsource all of it. So I switched e-mail for all my domains to tuffmail.com a few months ago, and am very happy with them so far.

It's not that hard. SPF/Domainkeys records are only needed if you don't run it on a residential ISP account. Use your ISP as a smart relay instead.

I have greylisting and MailScanner to cover spam. filtering. Personally I use spamd on my OpenBSD firewall for greylisting, but have used a Postfix greylisting setup in a corporate environment. MailScanner combines SpamAssassin and Anti-Virus scanning of your mail before delivery. I rarely get spam.

Making sure not to run an open relay isn't all that hard, it's even easier if you use a webmail interface outside your own network.

Learning how to run a small mail server isn't hard. Yes a little up front research is mostly all it takes. My mail server runs mainly hands off. A little up front cost in time saved a recurring monthly cost.

I have, and am well served by, Fastmail's expensive plan: $40 US per year per domain. If you even know what all those terms in the above comment mean that's about half an hour of your time, tops. And it doesn't count the cost of the hosting for your server. And for the secondary server, which receives your mail while the primary is down for maintenance.

There are several[1] guides[2] that demonstrate how to set up a full-featured and secure e-mail system. Personally, I run my own e-mail on Exchange Server 2010--complete with a multi-copy database availability group and multiple front-end servers--but I'm known for overkill.

1 - http://flurdy.com/docs/postfix/index.html

2 - http://www.mail-toaster.org/

Why would you choose to run Exchange?

Because I like it, I'm good at it, and it plays nice with all my devices that support ActiveSync. Cloud providers have added support for ActiveSync, but I'm too much of a control freak to give up my self-hosted setup (both due to perceived privacy problems and spam concerns). At this point my Exchange environment is a collection of virtual machines spread across two physical machines (and two disk sets in one machine), so my hardware cost is minimal.

Fair enough.

My employer uses Exchange (for some reason still running Exchange 2003!!!) and I have always struggled getting mail clients to play properly with exchange. I have finally given up and am running Outlook virtually.

I've been considering this, my main problem is that my cash flow is fairly spotty at times for a dedicated server and I would prefer not to have to worry about the security of my box, uptime and the like.

However if I must, I will.

A guide I mentioned earlier (http://flurdy.com/docs/postfix/index.html) shows how to set this up on Amazon EC2. If you haven't partaken, Amazon is still giving away a free-for-a-year tier of EC2.

It's not Google who you should be afraid of it's your government, if your government cares about data protection, than Google will not risk it, it's not worth it, even if they are evil,

But if your government forces Google to make a wiretap interface for them, they have no choice.

Either way they are in the hands of the government.

I recently attempted such a move, but Google docs held me back. I realize any true paranoia agent would never use Google Docs, but if you ever collaborate on documents it is irreplaceable. Not to mention other people are creating shared documents on Google Docs that I need to use.

True, I could move just migrate the email, contact list, and calendar somewhere else. But then I would have two contact lists that need to be synchronized between my new provider and Google Docs and forward any notifications from Gmail.

Then I realized just how much I rely on Google's email search. Finding an email within tens of thousands is instant on Gmail. It is nearly impossible with anyone else.

In the end, I abandoned trying to move away from Gmail / Google Apps. After all, there is nothing stopping the admin of any email system from casually reading inboxes or being forced to turn over data to a government authority. And Google does have some history of fighting back for information requests, where I can see much smaller providers folding under pressure more quickly due to limited resources.

And the argument against self hosting has been repeated here already, but the risk of loss of service is far, far the worst thing to happen for email. If you don't care if your email becomes undeliverable for hours or days at a time, you really don't need to be paranoid about email.

You can use https://www.google.com/takeout/ to see and download a lot of the data you have in Googles services.

In the dashboard all the options are down the bottom to delete all your info etc.

Darn I was hoping Gmail was in that list. Purely out of curiosity I'd love to download the 20,000 messages I have in there to do some analysis..

Gmail is not in that list, because they have IMAP access (http://www.dataliberation.org/google/gmail).

You can just setup your account in for example OSX Mail, after synchronizing your messages will be in ~/Library/Mail (albeit not in a really nice folder structure like pure mbox or maildir, but you should be able to convert them without much hassle). Or you could use offlineimap (http://www.offlineimap.org), which gives you an IMAP dump/backup of your messages (in maildir format if I'm not mistaken). That said, the possibilities of getting your mail from IMAP are almost endless, just choose whatever suits you.

Btw, keeping 20000 mails just about anywhere might be convenient, but I really wonder what for (to clarify, I have maybe 300 mails right now on my own server and I regularly dump old stuff, while dumping for example registration mails right away due to security reasons)?

Thanks for pointing out the IMAP approach. I use IMAP on my phone but never really considered using it download all my mail.

I'll give offlineimap.org a look..

To answer your other question, I have 20k emails because Gmail doesn't delete by default, so I just archive as I go..

I'm a zero-inbox type so I use labels and searching a lot. Those 20k emails are surprisingly well organized..

I used offlineimap when I moved from gmail, worked fine.

You don't need it to be in the list. Just use IMAP to download your messages.

Nothing easier then to fetch all mails over imap

http://www.yippiemove.com/ is pretty good at doing stuff like this. Costs a little bit, but if you figure the time savings into the equation it's an easy sell.

As long as data is concerned, http://google.com/dashboard will tell you about everything tied with you account.

I'm currently trying to do this as well and the only viable solution sounds self-hosted email. I tried a bit with hushmail and Tor (also look at hushmail's Diceware for password encryption) but it has a tight limit of 25MB for free accounts.

Good luck.

Lavabit is pretty good. I've been with them (Personal Account plan) for about 4 years now. No downtime, IMAP and a stated goal in caring about their users privacy. The webmail interface is pretty modest, but they do provide a way to set pretty advanced regex server-side filters. You have to upgrade to a paid plan if you want decent SPAM filtering though. They're also planning a surprise upgrade soon.


Zohomail is an interesting alternative. They say that they do not sell ads because they are a profitable subscription-based service. Email is free for personal use, has good IMAP support and a decent webmail interface. You can also use your own domain for free. The only problem I've found with them is that the email filtering is limited to a few common fields (e.g. no specific headers).


Sorry, but for real work the ZOHO web interface is unusable. I'm not the only one who thinks that :) Especially if you are used to Gmail, ZOHO works like it has been written by drunk people.

Lavabit seems quite interesting.

Anyone going to write a Gmail clone for installation on your own servers finally? I would pay quite a bit for that.

(Disclosure: I am the CEO of Zoho) If you could take a moment to tell us what you find unusable about Zoho Mail, I would assure you we would listen to the critique seriously (and perhaps even do something about it if we agree!). You can also contact me at svembu at zohocorp com and yes we use Zoho Mail intensively in our 1400 person company.

It's good to know you use it yourself :) I use, because of one of my biggest clients, your mail client every day as well.

Already presented my disclaimer: I have been working with Gmail since it's inception. Before that I used all kinds of different clients; all not very nice. The best I used was mutt by far. But that pre-gmail ;) I'm talking about the client, not about Google as cloud mail storage provider, although I really don't think they are evil yet as people seem to think.

I digress.

So this is more a shootout than a face value comparison, although most points, I believe, would annoy me as well without the gmail comparison.

Biggest: speed. Basically that's my biggest issue. ZOHO is slow. Very slow. This is not only the mail app, this is everything (the project management app makes me bang my head against the wall every week I have to enter hours as it takes... yep, hours...). But for the mail app, something I use intensively, this is really quite unworkable. My colleagues at the client all use Outlook with Zoho as they cannot work with the mail client as it is too slow to really work with.

With gmail you click on a message and as by magic, instantly it opens the entire thread. For the current page even when your network is gone. With Zoho you see 'loading' then you wait. And wait. And then it appears. Next mail. Loading... The agony. It's like it was the year 2000 and we just had Ajax.

No internet detection; when internet is down even for a little bit, Zoho mail becomes unusable. It takes forever to notice internet is down and it will be showing 'loading' forever and nothing works even if you are back again. Refresh fixes it, but it seems brittle. Sometimes the CSS breaks, sometimes it just give random error messages when you click on anything. Even though the internet was back for a while already.

This is probably a matter of taste, but screen real estate; when i'm reading a message i'm not interested in the rest of my messages. I want to use most of my available screen for reading that message (like gmail...).

Spam: I get tons of spam; I have ancient email addresses and they attract 100s of 1000s of spam mails per month; in gmail I notice NOTHING of this, really absolutely nothing. In ZOHO the spam filter is almost not noticeable for me, I keep clicking spam until my wrists are locked up.

And then the little things, the ergonomics; it just feels clunky. Not as bad as the project management app (I am no interface designer, but come on :(, but it just feels old and heavy. If Google taught anything for mail client designers; not everything has to look/work like Outlook.

This all makes me say ZOHO web mail is not ready for heavy mail users even though a lot people use it for that; a lot people also use Lotus Notes, that doesn't prove much. I will pay more attention and mail you with my findings because now I only see the big points clearly, but the whole experience is actually just 'not good'.

You did a marvelous job of building this company; my compliments. You have a lot of good products and you managed to build this impressive array of products at an amazing rate. But that has it side effects; polishedness is one of them. I know a lot of people who work with Zoho products every day and for some of them they still cannot find how to do some things ( I won't name my nemesis again here ). Would it hurt to add employee 1401 who is a $400k/year UX guru to overhaul everything? I think it would make all the difference.

Thanks for replying here!

Any examples of web interface not being good enough? I know it's far from perfect, but couldn't really blame it for anything more specific than "general polish" at the moment...

Isn't Lavabit just using a skinned squirrelmail instance?

I never heard about Lavabit before, I'm going to try it out. But I have no clue what web interface they have, maybe the parent can tell?

Overall gist: http://i.eho.st/pp22pqgf.png

When you view an email, only text is shown. You can "View as HTML", but images are blocked. http://i.eho.st/pp2fukzy.png

Personally, this renders the web interface useless to me, so I view my email through Outlook.

Looks like SquirrelMail, Aurelius is probably right.


Makes sense, it's sort of the goto open source webmail app.

They're also planning a surprise upgrade soon.

What does this mean?

Tangentially related -

I would pay for an email service with an off-site delivery for Gmail recipients. Basically, it should hold any email that is to be sent to GMail servers and instead send a note saying "You've got mail, pick it up here https://<url>. Anything like this out there?

That's hardcore!

I try to get myself to start blogging for a couple days now and wanted to start with my journey away from the big G.

For me the solution is my own vps, self-hosting. I'm 90% there, having set up the new system, backed up my GMail contents, added a webmail solution and now I'm looking at the last (but so damn important) 10%: Choosing a backup solution (and I won't fully migrate until I have a backup in place that I successfully restored once).

I understand that this isn't for everyone, but for me this proved little work so far and it's really flexible (I'm authenticating via yubikey now, for example).

I've moved my family's email to Rackspace's hosted email (not exchange). I have an SLA, and I own data. So far the loss of spam filtering and webmail are my biggest aches, soon achieve searching will be added to that list. I sometimes wonder if Google didn't have the same role as anti-virus companies did. Secretly promote viruses to over value their software... Google's spam filtering is amazing now that I have to contend with RS's lackluster spam services, so it's another case of "you need us, because it's a scary world out there."

Whatever the case, I'm happy to be off gmail.

I highly recommend Tuffmail. They are awesome. I am a longtime customer:


Edit: It's not free. It costs like 2 dollars a month for the smallest account.

Another suggestion for tuffmail. Used them for years. Stable and does what you need.

+1 for Tuffmail. Also a long time customer. My favorite feature is the admin interface that lets you manage an unlimited number of aliases and route them to specific folders, e.g., foo@domain1.com => INBOX/foo/, bar@domain2.com => INBOX/bar/. Compare this to Google Apps and Fastmail, which both seem to limit the number of aliases you can create.

Is Gmail for Business any different privacy-wise than free Gmail? (The free part is less important to me.)

And while we are at it maybe a good alternative to Google Calendar? I've been wanting to switch away from these two for some time now.

Yes, this is definitely relevant to my interests as well. So far I haven't found anything as good as GC and even that is not as good as I would like it to be.

Besides gmail's superior spam filtering, this is the one thing I miss from google.

I look around once in awhile, and I never do find a good solution. My current solution is Thunderbird's Lightning extension, and I cringe every time Thunderbird updates, which is often now that Mozilla has the constant update fetish.

I would love to find a reasonably priced calendar solution with a company that I believe will be around for at least five years.

I really wish fastmail did calendars. Are you listening FM?

What is exactly the privacy concern that makes you move away from gmail?

When I consider targeted advertising and the sheer amount of data that I've pumped into Google services over the years it's scary to see how accurate of a picture advertisers and co have of me.

I suggest you can opt out Google's ads first. Hope these work.

Save your opt-out preference permanently http://www.google.com/ads/preferences/html/intl/en/plugin/

Ads Preferences Manager http://www.google.com/ads/preferences/?hl=en

Google Advertising and Privacy http://www.google.com/privacy/ads/

Why does this scare you though? I am curious as to why people are so afraid of advertisers seeing their interests. Personally, I don't care if I get served targeted ads, is that really going to harm me?

I use google extensively, gmail for years, google docs, etc. I must have clicked the right things in the privacy checkboxes since when I go to that "what does google think of you" page, it just says it "does not have enough data".

I've used Rackspace E-mail for years (formerly called MailTrust) with my own domains. It's $2 per mailbox per month, minimum of $10 per month. POP, IMAP (with push notifications) and a decent webmail client I don't use. You get an actual SLA and 24x7x365 support by phone/web/email.

What privacy concerns do you have? Real people reading your email? Computer programs scanning your email? Is it about ads and not privacy?

It's my understanding that virtually no one at Google has the access privileges required to read your email. That won't be the case at most smaller mail hosts. If the host supports IMAP, they can read your email, there is no way around that. I trust Google's security way more than most companies.

If it's about programs scanning your email, well, spam/virus filtering has to do that. And I personally don't care what some computer bot knows about me, as long as a real person doesn't snoop around.

In my opinion ads are not an invasion of privacy, and if you want free you will get ads. Google Apps for Business can have ads disabled, only $50/year.

As most here, I'd advise to go for a commercial service. Selfhosting is fun but can cause unnecessary headaches.

Fastmail seems to have an impeccable reputation. I have been using sherweb for several years now. Works very well. It's a bit more expensive but you also get a lot more, too. Think calendar, contacts. Plus, most smartphones work wonderfully with the Exchange mailbox. They are located in Canada. Last but not least, the webmail interface finally works well in other browsers than IE. http://www.sherweb.com/hosted-exchange/hosted-exchange-featu... They also support IMAP.

Are there any good hosters based on Zimbra out there?

For zimbra, I've used http://www.simplymailsolutions.com/

They are based in the UK, so you have to convert their pricing, but Their service has been fabulous. It's Zimbra. I eventually ended up moving to iCloud, with my new phone, I ended up losing some income streams, and wanted to cut down costs, but otherwise I'd still be with them. There is also 01.com, I used them some too, they are fine, if you need a US based provider.

Privacy and free don't work well together; a free provider has to support itself somehow, and most of the ways it could do so inherently reduce your privacy.

Personally, I'd suggest going to gandi.net and getting a domain name from them for $15/year, which comes with email: 5 real accounts, umpteen forwarding accounts, IMAP, SMTP, and a decent webmail client (roundcube). Plus, you get an email address at your own domain, not tied to any one email provider, making it easy to switch later if you want.

I use RackSpace e-mail hosting for own domain and also for business mail hosting. Haven't had any issues with them yet (after around 2 years).

Edit: It has IMAP, but isn't free.

fastmail.fm has a free account, but it's nowhere near the space that gmail provides. But it's good enough.

I originally used fastmail's free account just to have a backup smtp server for when gmail or whoever I was with at the time went down. gmail does go down, happened more than once to me.

fastmail has a $5/year account, which is probably where you want to start if you're concerned about "free."

I think their next level up is about $20/year.

If you are lucky (fast) to get one of the first raspberry PIs, you could host your own mail server on one of those. Put SpamAssasin on there, get ssh running and the other mail programms you need (plenty of guides on the web for that), set up a rsync script for backup and then it's pretty much set & forget. Then when the SD card dies on you, you stick a new one in and resync, ta-da!

Or you could get a SheevaPlug (I've got a TonidoPlug). The most economical personal home server :)

AmazingWill, in my opinion, if you want to ensure privacy, online service with IMAP is not the solution, because:

1) You don't know who has (or will get) access to the emails stored at the servers.

2) You don't know if your account will not be hacked.

In my opinion, you either need to:

a) host your own email server, or

b) periodically download your emails through pop3s to your own encrypted drive, not leaving them on the server

Ah, my fellow geeks. Excellent discussions on replacements for the backend infrastructure and handling. :)

Now, does anyone have a replacement for the UI/client? Something good and multiplatform that a) deals well with multi media (images, attachments, etc) and b) still retains MH semantics?

The use of MH style semantics is what attracted me to the whole thing back in 2004.

GMail for Business ?

That should work.

Shit rms says.

Recently, the company i work for decided to move out of G apps(paid). The top mgmt got some doubts abt google employees reading our emails. We were trying to close some deal with Google. I think they did it after some credible suspicion.

If one is worried about privacy, he/she shouldn't send their email in plaintext, readable by not just Google, but the rest of the world. If one cares about privacy, look to encryption.

Try using Zimbra community edition. You will need a server and some technical knowledge to set it up but it is good. My company's official emails are hosted on Zimbra since long now.

pair.com has cheap shared hosting which includes email. In some ways they're more flexible than solutions like fastmail. It's a middle ground between total outsourcing and running your own server: you get a shell account, yet you don't have to keep the server up.

I used pair.com for this and other purposes for many years, happily, and I'm thinking of going back. I'm on fastmail at the moment. One surprising development: pair.com used to be freebsd-only, and now they offer ubuntu as an alternative.

http://www.gandi.net/ offers free IMAP/POP with their domains. Hosted in Europe (as far as I know).

Late to the Discussions, but i am surprise no one has mentioned atmail -www.atmail.com

They have a cloud solution too.

Personally i think this is the best email services.

runbox - http://runbox.com/ - seemed best when i looked for a replacement. they're based in norway, but not free. however, i eventually decided to run my own (on linux, using mutt terminal reader and mairix search (nice and fast); mail delivery by forwarding through my isp).

An email is exchanged between >=2 people. One of them securing their account has little (if any) effect on privacy.

Let me reply with equal banality: for two people to secure their email, one must.

I have a question regarding these so-called highly secure email providers which respect privacy. Is the data on the servers of these services encrypted? I mean, isn't it too resource consuming to do something like that? And if it is encrypted, do they do it like LastPass, with a client side JavaScript decryption module?

People should anwer the question asked and not go tangential to the question.

The reason Gmail is free is because they have ads. I wouldn't expect to find a free and good email service.

Here's one that costs some money: http://fastmail.fm/

If it's important it might be worth paying for. Fastmail is $40/year for the full fledged personal plan w/ your own domain etc etc. The filtering support is better than Gmail and if you want to write your own Sieve rules you can get very specific about it. Happy customer of about seven years.

I third the motion regarding Fastmail. They have recently been acquired by Opera.com but that's not a negative IMO. Google apps was easier when it came along for setting up domain email but I've had excellent history with Fastmail.

Yearly plans give you the extras you'd want and are around $35/yr

Marco Arment blogged about his switch here: http://www.marco.org/2011/04/05/let-us-pay-for-this-service-...

Cmd-F "fastmail"

I've been using them for a few months now, definitely worth the price. Really quick and easy to add new virtual domains, and the spam filter is decent enough for my inbox. Highly recommended.

I second the motion. I've used fastmail for years. It's been utterly dependable, worth every penny. I moved to them after deciding that running my own imap server was just too much hassle.

Discussion about fastmail.fm/OperaMail on Hacker News: http://news.ycombinator.org/item?id=2427102

The new beta web interface for fastmail.fm looks pretty good: https://beta.fastmail.fm

It that a joke? Cause clicking on sign up took me to: https://beta.fastmail.fm/%3C?%20Signup%20?%3E

I've used Fastmail for a couple of years, after I decided to leave gmail. Very happy with it - it's the only web service I pay for.

i, too, used fastmail for years. these days i do everything through gmail, which i switched to because i needed the larger quota it provided and had no money at the time to pay fastmail for it. Fastmail offers a free 'guest' account, which is what I had, and should totally suffice to give you an idea of the service, which I would definitely recommend.

A question, what is the difference between Google reading your email and using data and the ISP eMail service you have chosen.

Seems to me that Google has a better track record than y other IPS email provider you could chose at this time.

Scale and business model. My ISP is not trying to help people sell me stuff by modeling my life and interests.

Maybe you can use another mail client (web or desktop) but your mail hosting service can be still gmail (with pop3 and smtp services).

Still serves targeted ads and my data is linked to my Google profile. One of the things I want to escape from.

Apple's iCloud. It's free (up to 5GBs), no ads, and Apple is not in the ads business, hence, they have no use of your personal data (as opposed to Google). I have no idea how good are they in actually protecting your personal data, but I don't recall significant breaches of mobile.me/icloud in the past year.

> Apple is not in the ads business

Really? http://advertising.apple.com/

Yes, sorry, they are. They are not serving web ads though, nor we have a reliable account that they collect information from user's iCloud emails to enhance the relevancy of iAd ads.

I was about to suggest iCloud, but it does not support some features that may be of interest to HN type users: in particular, "email personalities" - the ability to send outgoing email through the iCloud SMTP server using any of your various non-me.com email addresses.

and Apple is not in the ads business, hence, they have no use of your personal data (as opposed to Google).

Aside from the fact that Apple is in the ad business (to limited success and motive thus far, though if the hardware sales profit train slowed down you can guarantee they would grow more interest), even if they weren't they still are incredibly interested in data about their customers. All businesses are interested in slicing and dicing and categorizing and maximizing sell through, etc.

Sorry, I was inaccurate, they do serve ads, but not web ads, and so far I don't have any reliable information stating that Apple scarps the contents of user's personal data to deliver more relevant ads in a way google does.

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