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From Gmail to Fastmail (l0cal.com)
145 points by etix on May 24, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 163 comments

There are plenty of reasons to switch to another host from Gmail, but this oft-expressed one is not great:

"Getting my data back under control

In the past months we’ve had a lot of scary revelations about privacy violations, the biggest being of course the NSA spying scandal. It became urgent to regain control of my data."

If someone else is hosting your e-mail, then you do not have your data "under your control". A government can still compel Fastmail to turn over e-mails via legal process (as they should be able to, to be honest). Additionally, there's no evidence that FastMail (or any other e-mail provider) is better protected from NSA infiltration [1].

It seems like the author has plenty of other reasons to switch, but this one lends nothing but a false sense of security [2].

[1] Possible exceptions being Lavabit-esque systems that do client-side encryption or Google itself, which has begun encrypting their internal as well as external traffic.

[2] Not that I really recommend running your own e-mail server either. Setting one up (and maintaining it) is so error-prone that you're probably even less safe than before.

Even running your own mail system might not gain you as much as you'd hope: http://mako.cc/copyrighteous/google-has-most-of-my-email-bec...

This is a good reason for all of us to keep switching away from GMail. It benefits us all via network effects.

I've wondered about this from time to time. Its one thing to scan emails to serve ads to the person who is using Gmail, but is Google also using those emails to also create profiles of non-Gmail users? I would like to think it's not.

It's likely that they do. It seems to me like it's hugely valuable and I see no reason why Google would refrain from doing so. Plus, Facebook does it too.


There's two types of "data under your control" at play here.

The first (and for most users, more important) is about not giving away your data to marketing companies. Switching to Fastmail accomplishes that (probably?).

The second is about securing your data from governments/state actors. That battle seems kind of futile to me. Even if I were running everything on my own server in my own basement, with my own ISP, I'm almost certainly not qualified to sysadmin a machine that needs to be secure against the NSA.

It seems rather dishonest to imply that Google is giving (or selling) your data to marketing companies.

It's also dishonest to imply that Google is not itself a marketing company.

I did take me a while to realize that Google long since made the pivot from tech company (the search engine that started it all) to ad company (where they make their money). After you look at the profit numbers, it really isn't all that interesting how they spin what they're doing -- or what they do to maintain a customer base that buys ads (such as creating a smart phone platform to stay relevant).

I'm not actively going out looking for other direct marketing companies in order to give them my data -- why would I do so with Google?

Google's been an advertising company since the day they realized they could make money off of search.

If I run an ad campaign, and tell Google to show my ad to a specific demographic of users, then I know that anyone who clicked on that link is (most likely) in that demographic.

In Gmail, clicking the "Why the ad?" link pops up this message:

"This ad is based on emails from your mailbox and information from your Google account. Ads Settings puts you in control of the ads you see."

So clearly they are using your Gmail information for marketing purposes. Are they selling it directly? No. But it seems dishonest to me to claim that they aren't selling it just because there is a middleman (Google) between the marketer and Gmail user.

Newsflash: Google is a marketing company!

But that doesn't mean that they give or sell your data to other companies. In fact, that would be incredibly stupid, each bit of data you can sell only once, while as space, you can sell every day.

Is there really such a major difference between you giving your data to your email provider who then sells it to other companies or you giving data to your email provider who then uses it very much the same way these other companies would do?

One major difference is that data is sold tends to get a life on its own. Company A sells to B, B to C, etc. Before you know it, your e-mail address/phone number is in the hands of many companies.

Google is different in this regard. Since they don't sell raw data, it's easier to opt-out (remove data via the Dashboard[1], delete your account, etc.).

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Dashboard

Fair enough, that is indeed a – possibly major – difference, although Google department A sharing data with department B, which gives stuff to department C could be argued to be similar, as the size of these departments easily match those of other companies.

Correct … but do not forget that there is Google Apps for Business too where you are not shown any ads.

You probably couldn't resist intrusion if you were under an active investigation, but hosting your own mail server would certainly help to partially mitigate the mass surveillance dragnets that are logging all traffic en masse from popular mail providers.

I'm really on the fence about that argument.

On the one hand your argument makes a lot of sense to me, but on the other hand using an email provider that is not one of the popular ones might in itself make you seem more suspicious.

And intercepting your email correspondence, no matter the provider, might be so trivial to the intelligence agencies at this point that they might be doing so already anyways. It's not unlikely that they'd be 'scanning' Fastmail email more intently than gmail, precisely because of the kinds of people that have security concerns.

> "... using an email provider that is not one of the popular ones might in itself make you seem more suspicious."

This kind of thinking is dangerous and scares me more than the dragnets themselves. There should be nothing suspicious about a citizen exercising their ability to choose from providers. As an analogy, I find it on par with thinking that hippies/minorities/whatever are somehow subversive just because they don't fit your idea of normal.

I can understand that this kind of thinking scares you, because it scares me too. I don't want to live in a world where hippies are monitored because they deviate from the norm, and I don't want to live in a world where trying to protect your privacy in itself can make you suspicious.

And yet hippies were monitored, and yet it's plausible that protecting your privacy does make you suspicious.

So I understand that this is scary, but I don't really understand why you consider this kind of thinking dangerous. If it's true, or if there's a good chance that it's true, then shouldn't that knowledge be acted upon, or at least considered, however scary?

Or am I misunderstanding you and are you just stating that in general you hate this situation?

How? Fastmail is...another mail provider.

Paying for email service might be a good idea for a lot of reasons, but people have an extremely absurd sense that they're "fighting the man". You know - by paying in US dollars, to a US company, using US banks....

EDIT: Something I did just see is that Fastmail gives you sieve scripting. Since going from hosting my own inbound email to Gmail, I've really missed having a good email sorting language.

We're an Australian company. Everything else you say is accurate enough, though we actually use an Australian payment provider (https://pin.net.au/).

So you don't transact with any US banks? What are you implying?

I'm answering the specific points made about FastMail with the whether they are correct or not.

We don't have an account with a US bank, though we do have an account in USD, and we're an Australian company, not a US company.

Other than that, our main datacentre is in the USA, and obviously if every US bank decided not to allow transactions to our accounts, we would be in trouble. That would be true regardless of whether we billed in USD or AUD.

Would you be willing to run Fastmail.is or Fastmail.com.au or something for some premium over general US fastmail?

That would be great! I'd be happy to pay 1.5 times the current price if my accounts were guaranteed to be hosted in Iceland.

Same here, I think Fastmail should definitely consider hosting their servers in various locations and allow their customers to choose where they want their primary storage to be.

This adds an annoying complication and would need a significant customer base to be worth the effort.

Fastmail and other Australian mail providers are not protected from the NSA, on the contrary, Australia is one of the Five Eyes:


> A government can still compel Fastmail to turn over e-mails via legal process

If they get a court warrant, you should either give in or fight against it. I think most reasonable people would find that reasonable as opposed to secret surveillance (e.g. NSA).

I think it is necessary to realize that email communication is at least bi-direction. So if one side is vulnerable to attack, there is no privacy or security. The best we could do is of course encrypt the message.

If you're using email then various governments (UK, USA) have it no matter where it's hosted. It's not under your control while in transit. At best you can encrypt it, but they'll take a copy of it anyway and burst it open if they need to.

"as they should be able to"? That's it? we are living in a world where privacy and freedom aren't ours to demand? Governments "should be able" to kill off our freedom? I haven't noticed we've gone that far away.

I don't mind service providers giving information to law enforcement provided there's due process and some court oversight. You can "demand" freedom all you want, but if convicted of a crime, the government should still be able to put you in jail.

Well, that's straight up fascism. You have your opinion and you think it's right to enforce your opinion by force on others. I shouldn't fear for my freedom, that's not a good functional society.

Would you apply that same argument in the case of, say, child abuse or neglect and the government stepping in and removing said child from his parents?

I'm not being flippant here, to be clear. I have friends who would argue just that, and while I do have an opinion on the matter, I can respect a consistent opinion that argues otherwise. I'm just curious where you would draw the line on this spectrum, if at all.

Not all totalitarianism is fascism. And if someone starts enforcing their opinion on others, who will stop them if no one else is allowed to impose on them the opinion that they shouldn't do that?

I'm so glad someone wrote this up. I've been meaning to.

Of all the tech changes I've made in the last few years, moving from Google Apps mail to Fastmail is the one that's made me the happiest, every day.

The webmail is absolutely amazing. So fast, rock-sold, clean, minimal, focused.

Having your webmail experience be completely ad-free and snoop-free, and, well, Google-free is priceless.

Choose the Business email option - https://www.fastmail.fm/signup/business.html - if you want them to keep an automatic archive of the emails you download via POP. When I signed up under the Personal Email option I found they didn't have this archive option, but they switched me over to the business account on request.

It's so worth the measly $15/year, considering the importance a good email/webmail experience, and how much it affects your every-day life.

I've helped a few friends switch over, and they've all been thrilled with it.

Amen. I switched to FastMail from Gmail more than a year ago and also absolutely love it. I highly recommend it for anyone dissatisfied with Gmail.

A few things that may be helpful for people considering making the switch:

- If FastMail's IMAP import doesn't work for you, this might (it worked for me): http://protips.maxmasnick.com/export-gmail-to-fastmail-or-an...

- If you want to try FastMail "risk free" so you can switch back to Gmail if you don't like it: http://protips.maxmasnick.com/how-to-test-fastmail-risk-free...

- My own writeup about my experience switching to FastMail from Gmail: http://www.maxmasnick.com/2013/07/19/fastmail/ (discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6069944)

Same here! Have been using fastmail for ~6 months now. I was hesitant, thought I'd miss push mail on iOS but it has been just fine. Also, there are some iOS mail clients that can push on FastMail (http://mymail.my.com) I always hated Gmail's slow/weird IMAP behavior. Switched to Office365 at some point. Exchange was great but so freaking slow. FastMail has standard, fast IMAP.

I also use the included DNS server for a couple of domains that had been lying around and the static file host for some http placeholder pages and stuff.

I'd never go back to Google at this point.

Fastmail seems to support IMAP Idle only. And IMAP Idle is not an option for mobile devices since the mail client has to keep the connection open all the time, so there goes your battery …

Therefore you keep in in periodic fetch mode.

3rd party apps with push support do not drain battery. They keep a connection open on their servers, and use regular push notifications when something arrives.

Has huge privacy concerns though.

I have the same experience. I find the interface just beautiful and pleasure to use. The same is true when using it from phone.

One of the best tool-related decisions I ever did.

While I'll agree that the interface is beautifully simple why not host your own? Aside from software updates I've had to perform zero maintenance and find comfort in the fact that I host my own.

Does Fastmail provide a matrix of all offers? I have for example never understood why business accounts have a USD 15/year management fee while family accounts have not …

As far as I know they do not. Your best option is to contact them: sales@fastmail.fm

I have been using Google Apps and actually have an "evil" thought whenever I heard someone is switching off of Google: maybe, the more people leaving Google, the better its performance will be (for the ones who stay) (ie: their servers will be less busy)

I moved to from Gmail to Fastmail last April, but this April, I moved back to Gmail. I have an email address (on my own domain) that I've used since the late 90's. It's all over the Internet in newsgroup archives, forums, etc. from before anyone was hiding emails from spam scrapers. Consequently I get several hundred spam per day. The FM spam filtering is no where near as good as G filtering. I had to manually flag as spam a couple dozen mails every day as well and go through the spam filter and pick out the false positives. I have no problems with G's spam filtering. The other problem with FM is administering multiple accounts on my domain. While it true it's only something I need to do once, as has been mentioned already, the settings/administration leaves much to be desired. Overall, using Gmail is just more pleasant to me, enough so that it outweighs the concerns (read: Google being creepy) that caused me to leave last April.

Did you train the spam filter with the minimum number of e-mails that is required to activate your personal bayes classifier?

Once your personal database has seen more than 200 spam and 200 non-spam emails, we automatically start using it to classify your incoming mail. Because it's been trained by the exact type of messages you receive, it is normally significantly more accurate at classifying spam than our general database. However, it can only do so once it's been properly trained, which is why we have to wait until it has seen 200 of each type of message before it is activated.

Source: https://www.fastmail.fm/help/receive/stopspam.html

Even though some spam reaches my inbox (around 10 per day) but I can live with that since it stops an other hundred of them.

I also recently switched from Gmail to Fastmail and haven't looked back. The webmail is fantastic, they're not scanning my email to show me ads, IMAP works great across all of my devices (which makes me more inclined to use OpenPGP when I can), and I can use it with my own domain rather than gmail.com. They're also working on CardDAV and a web calendar (with CalDAV support), which will get me completely off of google once completed.

The only thing I really miss is push notifications to my phone, but I've found that 15 minute fetching works well enough for the time being.

Overall I've been really happy with it over the last 3 months. Definitely worth the $40/yr in my eyes.

The webmail is fantastic, they're not scanning my email to show me ads, [...] and I can use it with my own domain rather than gmail.com.

In all fairness, if you use Google Apps for Business ($50 per year), you can also use e-mail with your domain and they are not scanning your e-mail to show you ads.

Google will still scan your mails but you will not be shown any ads.

I agree that Gmail (especially via Google Apps for Business) is a great mail provider. My main beef with Gmail is the sub-par IMAP support.

Google will still scan your mails but you will not be shown any ads.

For viruses and spam, yes. But Fastmail does that too.

In addition to these increased security measures, as we recently announced, we’ve now turned off ads in Google Apps services. This means administrators no longer have the option or ability to turn on ads in these services. We’ve also permanently removed all ads scanning in Gmail for Google Apps, which means Google does not collect or use data in Google Apps services for advertising purposes.

Source: http://googleenterprise.blogspot.de/2014/05/protecting-googl...

Thanks, I wasn't aware of that!

If you want CardDAV and CalDAV support, you should take a look at Fruux [1]. They are a "headless" contact/calendaring server, no GUI, just the API. I moved to them (off Google Calendar) around the same time as I moved from Gmail to Fastmail, and I'm extremely satisfied.

[1] https://fruux.com

Does fruux now support keeping in sync with an ics file like facebooks private urls? Last time I checked that was the last hurdle I had to move away from google calendar.

I wrote a thing to synchronize ics files with caldav calendars: https://github.com/untitaker/vdirsyncer

Don't think so. I don't use that, I just plug external calendars into the apps that need them (or at least Calendar on Mac).

The iOS push notifications are what has been causing me to move my email over to GMail. Otherwise I'd much prefer something like Fastmail.

I'm sure solutions exist for push notifications. Has anyone had success with any of them?

> The iOS push notifications are what has been causing me to move my email over to GMail.

Don't rely on Gmail for push: they discontinued Exchange-support recently, though they grandfathered in old users. What's irritating to me is that when I set up my new phone I lost it, and am now back to using fetch-only Gmail unless I want to use one of Google's proprietary apps (unless they've changed this recently).

Agreed that I'd like Fastmail to have push. Every time they come up on HN, I mention it, because I'm a paying Fastmail customer and would like to stay one because they're really perfect in every other way, but the lack of push email is just very disappointing.

> I'm sure solutions exist for push notifications. Has anyone had success with any of them?

On iOS there are options like Boxcar and the like, but they're usually sub-optimal and rely on passing your login credentials to a third party.

Don't rely on Gmail for push: they discontinued Exchange-support recently, though they grandfathered in old users. What's irritating to me is that when I set up my new phone I lost it, and am now back to using fetch-only Gmail unless I want to use one of Google's proprietary apps (unless they've changed this recently).

Google Apps for Business does have Exchange ActiveSync:


I'm sure solutions exist for push notifications. Has anyone had success with any of them?

I played a little with PushOver, which seems to work fine. PushOver provides a user-specific (difficult to guess) e-mail address. E-mails sent there become push notifications. This can be combined with Fastmail's option to forward summarized e-mails.

One of the nice things about Fastmail is that you can use Sieve, so you can e.g. set up filtering such that only e-mails that arrive in the inbox are forwarded for push notifications.

It's not my default setup yet (I am mostly playing with Fastmail, while still using GMail as my primary e-mail provider), but it looked promising.

I wrote a ruby script which watches Fastmail's IMAP inbox, does some filtering and then sends a push notification when mail arrives using the Pushover app. https://github.com/tjtg/imap-pushover

Sweet! I'll take a look, thanks. I considered PushOver and Boxcar but I didn't like the idea of forwarding all my email to them.

IMAP IDLE works great, it's not as efficient as push on mobile because of the battery drain but at least you'll get instant notifications. That's what I use with K-9 on Android.

IDLE opens a TCP connection for every folder the client is IDLE-ing on. It surely drains the battery. I haven't used it, but NuevaSync provides Exchange ActiveSync for IMAP accounts.

I've also done the same recently-- though I always liked Gmail, FastMail has just been much better in terms of usability with the web client (e.g. no ads, it's fast, etc.)

Never heard of FastMail before this post, and I'm considering switching now. I have a personal mail server, but it was a PITA to set up, and it probably needs AWS SES (since everything I send mostly ends up in people's spam folders), and there's always the possibility of the VPS going offline for some time.

Just curious, does it support 2FA for the web login and api key (or device keys, whatever google calls them) access for IMAP?

No, Fastmail does not support actual 2FA. You can add alternative login methods, for example Google Authenticator, but you can always login with your password only, i.e., it is not like Gmail where you have to use 2FA for untrusted devices or logins from strange locations plus specific passwords for IMAP etc. And the configuration screen is a mess:

http://i.imgur.com/NzW8o5h.png http://i.imgur.com/dmoBbpy.png

For the webmail yes, definitely. For IMAP I don't think it would work, I personally use OTP when I do IMAP on an insecure device.

It does.

You can append your current 2FA TOTP code right after the password when your email client requests the password.

I made up my decision and finally made the switch this evening, after reading this post. So far I'm pretty happy about it. Thanks etix!

Several things I'd like to share here:


Fastmail actually comes with a XMPP server. This is a big bonus feature that I didn't expect. It can also keep chat logs in an IMAP folder named 'chat'. Read more here: https://www.fastmail.fm/help/clients/chat.html

2. External Account

If you want to manage other email accounts (receive emails from them), Fastmail seems only support POP (in contrast to Gmail supporting both POP and IMAP). Also, unlike Gmail which checks email with a dynamic frequency based on how many emails you receive at the time, Fastmail uses a fixed interval for checking emails from external account. The minimum interval you can set is 1 hour. I couldn't find a way to manually trigger a POP check in Fastmail either.

One hour is a bit too long for me, but fortunately I adapted to a better way than using external account. I simply set an auto-redirect rule in my other email accounts (e.g. my school uses MS Exchange) and that actually results in instant delivery of emails from external account. I guess this is the right way to handle the problem (other than making your primary email service pull emails from external account like what I did in Gmail before).

Glad you like it as much as I do.

1. I did not mention the XMPP server primarily because I already use another server but it's always a welcome addition indeed.

2. I've read somewhere (can't remember where though) that when you're logged in the frequency is automatically increased and you can force a retrieval manually by using the refresh button. Maybe @brongondwana can comment on this matter.

"IMAP was working less reliably and I felt more like the product than the customer"

This is the key for me. (1) IMAP not working well and in particular, (2) feeling more like the product than the customer.

With fastmail.fm their business model is they provide a service (email) and in return I give them money. They succeed as a business by getting more money. I am happy to give them money in return for a high quality product.

With Gmail their business model is they provide a service, and in return I give them permission to scan the content of my emails, to data-mine my contacts' names and addresses, and use that information to (a) serve me ads, (b) make money by selling it to third parties, and (c) who knows what else. Gmail succeeds by obtaining (and selling) more and more personal information.

I don't like this and frankly I persist in my surprise that Gmail users accept this transaction.

Sure, in principle, fastmail.fm could be surreptitiously selling my personal information as well ... but the point is that (a) they say they don't do this, and (b) their business model and their success (presumably) don't depend on this. If it was found out they were doing this, (presumably) their business would suffer greatly.

Anyway I recently switched over to fastmail.fm from Gmail as well, like the OP. So far I am extremely happy with it. A MUCH better experience on iOS and on OS X Mail.app.

Google Apps no longer serves ad's in email to anyone. So their business model is not to sell ads - it's to charge for email, calendar and storage - a very similar model to FastMail. Except Gmail has perfect forward secrecy, the best security of any email provider, and great web and mobile apps.

I know with google apps you don't get served ads ... but nevertheless, doesn't part of google's business model still depend on them mining the content of your emails?

Or to put it another way: does google guarantee that with google apps email, none of your content (or contact info) is used for any purpose other than just spam detection?

What makes you think that Google sells any information about you to third parties?

I recently switched from Gmail to Fastmail as well, and I like it so far.

For me, scanning my email to show me ads didn't really bother me that much. But the thing that I really like with Fastmail is that my outbound email alias works the way I want.

The university I graduated from gives us email aliases for life, and I prefer to use my university alias instead of my Gmail address. It obviously works fine when I receive mail, but when I send mail from Gmail it would say "from me@gmail.com on behalf of me@jhu.edu" (or whatever). And so for a lot of people, when they would add me to their address books they'd end up adding my gmail address because that's how it was presented to them.

With Fastmail everyone just sees my jhu.edu address as I prefer.

when I send mail from Gmail it would say "from me@gmail.com on behalf of me@jhu.edu" (or whatever)

You can configure Gmail to use your university's SMTP server and then Gmail is simply an e-mail client. They steer you away from that option but it's available.

If that's true, would love to see some documentation for it.

Nice, thanks.

I'm currently reading Glenn Greenwald's new book, NO PLACE TO HIDE, and I have to say that a person should take much comfort in the fact that Fastmail is in Australia rather than the U.S. Australia is a member country in what the NSA terms the "Five Eyes" (U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.) These countries are thick as thieves when it comes to sharing signal intelligence.



(Sorry for the typo.)

Can't you edit your comment? You ought to be able to go that within the first hour or so.

Something I think is another huge plus people don't mention: you get an actual, living person for technical and other support.

yes! a week ago I opened a support ticket because of a bug. 2 days later it was fixed. pretty amazing!

Yep. I recently filed a feature request and a bug report. Both were replied to and fixed within one or two days by one of their developers.

Responsive customer support is such a huge thing, and yet so few companies do it right.

Especially for something as crucial as email. I am probably still sticking with gmail for a while, but I can't imagine the horror of suddenly being locked out and not being able to get on the phone with anyone.

Probably because it's hard. Answering is easy, anyone can do it but making customers happy is way more difficult.

I've been eying Fastmail for a while.

It's really sad that they won't offer Icelandic-only hosting, it would give some additional comfort. But perhaps that will change?

Is there any good reason why they haven't done this already? It seems to me privacy is a major selling point, especially after the Snowden revelations.

Basically, we just don't have the hardware in Iceland to support both running a full replica of everything from New York and also running production traffic in Iceland.

A fair bit of that is my personal fault for not pushing the extraction from Opera's racks into our own separate racks. We've been paying for capacity in Iceland for 3 months that we're not using yet.

Can we expect Fastmail to run a complete production traffic replica in Iceland in the future? I would gladly pay up to 1.5x the price for having my primary storage there instead of the US.

It's likely the NSA reads your Fastmail at the breakfast table. Their servers are on US soil.

It would take some wicked mental gymnastics to rationalize that fact away.

It would be a wise choice. I really hope they'll do it too.

Fastmail should really invest in some better domains. While I can use google to find a company's website, I still have to communicate my email address literally on a regular basis. I'd rather not have to spell out a weird domain.

They have one really great domain: sent.com

I have never had a problem communicating it.

As someone who actually switched from Fastmail TO Gmail several years ago, this definitely resonates. "Fastmail" is not easily recognized by most people and becomes especially unclear if you're reciting your email address over the phone.

Fastmail doesn't even own fastmail.com! They do have many domains available [1] but none are that great.

[1] https://www.fastmail.fm/help/legal/ourdomains.html

You should be using your own domains regardless of who is your email provider. That way switching email provider is only one MX record change away if the need ever arises.

Fastmail is great for email, but what really makes them awesome is they can also provide static web hosting, custom DNS services, and even a Jabber/XMPP service for no additional charge.

If you want to host a personal home page + your own email, this is really compelling. Much more power-user friendly than Google Sites, much more reliable than most virtual webhosts, and much cheaper/easier than AWS.

The GET part of the fastmail link in this blog post suggests this is a fastmail sponsored ad rather than honest opinions of an unbiased user: http://www.fastmail.net/?STKI=12089553

Also, I don't see how "Getting my data back under control" is achieved by shifting from a free service to a paid service; if you're serious about this, you should rather setup your own mail server on a spareable machine (Raspberry Pi etc. + an ordinary desktop mail client + Roundcube etc).

And unless you use something like GPG, your email data is as secure as your corresponding mailbox.

Sorry but I wouldn't spend my time writing good reviews for a service I don't like just to get few dollars off my next subscription (which is going to be in 2 years anyway).

And yes I've used my referral ID to link to their website. I don't see what's wrong with that since I mentioned it in the article and everyone is free to remove it and I'm pretty sure a lot of the readers did anyway.

I was going to signup with Fastmail.

But the Terms is pretty strict, i.e. they can terminate you without notice, not a warning, also they don't really care about refunds, no matter whatever the reason is?

I'm hesitated again. Is the hosting-your-own-mail-server the only way out?


The Service Provider may terminate your access to any part or all of the Service and any related service(s) at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice, effective immediately, for any reason whatsoever, with or without providing any refund of any payments. The Service Provider may also terminate or suspend your account for inactivity, which is defined as failing to sign-in to the Service for an extended period of time, as determined by the Service Provider. The amount of time that the Service Provider currently considers as an "extended" period of time may be viewed from the Help link. Upon termination of the Service, your right to use the Service immediately ceases.

The Service Provider shall have no obligation to maintain any content in your account or to forward any unread or unsent messages to you or any third party. 8.1. NO REFUNDS

Any refunds are at the sole discretion of the Service Provider.

The Service Provider may choose to make a refund at its sole unfettered discretion, however the Service Provider shall have no obligation to refund any portion of any payments, in the event that You wish to discontinue use of all or part of the Service, or in the event that your access is terminated by the Service Provider.

I moved from Gmail to Fastmail too but I am not that happy. And no, Fastmail does not protect you from the NSA since Australia is one of the Five Eyes:


I moved from Gmail to Fastmail because my personal CRM's mail integration depends on Apple Mail. Gmail and Apple Mail do not go well together because Gmail is not IMAP (and Apple Mail has some issues too, even with the latest improvements). So with Fastmail's 'real' IMAP implementation, that issue was resolved. But Fastmail is lacking in comparison to Gmail in many areas, just two examples:

Filtering: Spam, phishing etc. filtering cannot compare with Gmail. And for your own filters, you cannot create them directly from a mail and see immediately the result as you can in Gmail. You have to create your filters via the setting menu and have to manually check if they actually work …

Security: I use 2-factor authentication as often as possible. Gmail has a very balanced approach to 2-factor authentication. Fastmail on the other hand does not allow you to use 2-factor authentication as a general security measure but only as an _additional_ login. And the configuration is not user-friendly. And since it is only an _additional_ login, you do not get (or need) backup codes or another backup way for your 2-factor authentication like SMS.

Fastmail works fine as a very traditional mail provider but that is not far away from what hosting providers offer anyway.

Your mileage might vary of course. If you are looking for a traditional mail provider with reliable IMAP support, Fastmail is certainly a great choice.

I moved from FastMail to Gmail a few years back because of poor spam filtering.

Recently, Gmail was getting worse and worse at filtering spam for me. Plus IMAP was never reliable, so I switched back to FastMail last year and its spam filtering is now considerably better than Gmail's for me.

FastMail's 2FA is indeed horrible, horrible thing, I wish they fixed that. Unfortunately, most of the development attention seems to be on Fastmail's webmail UI these days, something I use only very rarely.

Still, I'm satisfied overall and like the setup much better than Gmail. I learned my lesson about using my own domain for email, though, to make any future migrations painless.

The only trustworthy way to make sure that only the recipient is reading your message is to use end-to-end encryption. Which for e-mail means GnuPG.

ZohoMail does everything Gmail does, including using you own domain. http://www.zoho.com/mail/features.html

Ditched Gmail when it started getting slow, ditched Outlook when it disabled its domain feature. It has a REAL free tier of 5GB + 10 users. (unlike Fastmail's 250MB). Plus their webmail interface is nice and clean.

Just FYI, they don't have the main feature I am using GMail for: priority inbox. Or at least I didn't find it in their feature lists.

The only downside I've seen switching from Gmail to Fastmail is that Fastmail's spam filtering isn't as good. But I can live with it.

I recently switched from Gmail to a mail provider called Posteo. They are a German mail provider much like Fastmail. Here is the neat thing: You can create a mail account and physically mail them paper money, without ever giving them your name or address.

I wish more services would be doing that! In particular, I think we sorely need an anonymous way of paying money on the web, like physical money.

That's neat. Is it a German only website or do they have an English version available?

As far as I know, the website is in German only. The webmail interface can be switched to any language you want though. I guess you could sign up for it with the help of a German friend or maybe even Google Translate. Since payment is completely anonymous (or paypal), that won't be a problem.

To quote from the FAQ:

  The webmail interface can be switched to other languages. 
  However, the rest of the service is in German, i.e. 
  sign-up, EULA, mail settings (forwarding, POP download, …),
  payment information etc. If you don't know any 
  German, you might miss some things.

  Der Webmailer lässt sich auf andere Sprachen umstellen. 
  Allerdings ist unser Angebot ansonsten komplett 
  deutschsprachig, also Anmeldung, AGBs, Einstellungen rund 
  um die Mailadresse (Weiterleitungen, POP-Sammeldienst,…), 
  Zahlungshinweise usw. Wer gar kein Deutsch kann, geht da 
  vielleicht etwas verloren.

Thanks for the explanation.

The coolest thing about Fastmail is a feature I didn't expect before making the switch: Fastmail is actually faster than Gmail. IMAP is quicker, webmail loads quicker, everything is just snappier. I still use Google mail for a lot of stuff (and actually only have one inbox at Fastmail currently) but I have been extremely impressed with Fastmail so far.

What is so wrong about Gmail's IMAP? I use it everywhere and don't see any issues.

If I use just IMAP, why use fastmail instead of gmail?

FastMail's server is very standards compliant (except for some weird parts of LIST-EXTENDED that I haven't worked out how to do efficiently yet, so they're still broken in the upstream Cyrus IMAP server)

And we're really blindingly fast for a lot of stuff, particularly if you're just downloading new email. We split every mailbox in to two sets of storage - SSD for messages less than 1 week old and lower than 1Mb in size, and big slower disk for the rest. The index metadata is also on the SSDs, so most common usage patterns can be served entirely from SSD.

Those SSDs are a RAID1 pair of Intel DC3700 drives, which are enterprise drives and very fast even for SSDs. We dropped a chunk of money on moving to this setup, and it's made both IMAP and regular web usage very nice.

So basically, we're optimised for IMAP and we're optimised for speed. Every server has local storage, and the local storage is fast. It gives quite predictable performance, and very fast performance.

That's my story as both the author/maintainer of our IMAP server, and the designer of the server architecture.

That's not saying that GMail is awful, just IMAP isn't so much their focus, and they don't optimise for it.

I am curious what sort of storage solution Google is using to compare to this one..

I believe it's based on BigTable.

There doesn't seem to be a published article that I can find on the exact internals, so I'm basing it off discussions on the protocol mailing lists.

Beside the non-standard way of managing folders (duplicate emails caused by labels) I find it slow compared to others.

I've been looking into doing this, so this post came at a good time. Especially the UI/keyboard shortcuts appeal to me, as that was the main reason I stuck with google over other solutions.

I just use the classic Gmail interface. I have for months now and will never go back. It's fast and cuts out all the cruft that I never use in Gmail, like the tabs and the G+ connectivity.

You can disable Hangouts (chat), the top tabs and G+ from the standard interface too. I'm using this with Mail Notifr app along with two Gmail accounts. I get instant notifications and the web interface loads in an instant for each email inbox. This way I avoid crappy email clients.

I think the tabs are great. With little or no training they're right 99% of the time and are a very effective way of separating "real email" - friends, colleagues, family - from the automated stuff that's not spam but which I also don't care about as much.

The tabs are great for mobile, where I can use them to control which emails generate push notifications. On the web, though, the entire new Gmail interface in general is so much less efficient at conveying information that I find that any categorization provided by the tabs is just not a big enough of a positive to justify using that interface.

The lesson of Levison is that privacy assurances by email service providers are not necessarily trustworthy. Levison balked, but most wouldn't want to shut down their businesses.

For now the best bet is either to self host (it's not that hard, especially for most folks reading this) or to use something like ProtonMail where the content can't be routinely exfiltrated and the provider can't give the inbox keys to any third party.

The idea of privacy with email is, unfortunately, very ephemeral. As seen in other articles also submitted to hn in the past, even if you stop using Gmail, Google will still have a very huge chunk of your data to track simply because the vast majority of the people you communicate with have a Gmail account. There is no easy/apparent way out.

This is not a good argument for using or staying with Gmail.

In fact, writing this another way potentially identifies a more compelling reason to leave:

By using Gmail, you are incrementally harming the privacy of everyone you communicate with.

Just in case people are missing things like the priority inbox I'd like to mention Sanebox [0]. In my opinion they are better than what google does plus they offer more features (for a price).

[0] https://www.sanebox.com/

Just moved my domain over to Fastmail. I can live with $10 per three months.

After reading this I plan to switch to fastmail as well.

Thanks for sharing the good stuff!

I switched from Gmail to Fastmail about a year ago after using exclusively Gmail for email since 2007. I've been very happy with Fastmail since then. Primarily I was bothered by getting the service for "free" from Google--it's not free for them to provide it (no such thing as a free lunch), which means they have to find ways to monetize my personal communications with others without me directly paying them. Obviously there are the ads, but then there's the matter of having to stay up to date on their privacy policies... long story short, Google creeps me out a little, and I'd rather pay a bit of money to feel like I'm not a host for some kind of sprawling global parasite.

Anyway, pros:

- The Fastmail web interface is fast. I've never seen it take longer to load than 1 second on any computer or internet connection; it's noticeably faster to load up the entire interface than Gmail.

- Fastmail also uses basically the same keyboard shortcuts as Gmail (j/k to go up and down, x to select, # to delete, y to archive, z to undo, r to reply, f to forward, a to reply-all, ctrl-enter to send--works from any field in fastmail rather than just the body or title as in gmail, which is handy for forwarding things).

- Sometimes sending/opening messages in Gmail was kind of slow; sending messages from Fastmail has always been virtually instantaneous, and opening them is definitely instantaneous. I think Fastmail preloads email content into the client so that it only has to request images from the server, because it definitely opens email too quickly to have done a round trip to the server to get the email contents. If you press 'o' to open an email, it will be open by the time your 'o' key comes back up.

- Fastmail can help with setting up DNS for emails for custom domains.

- Fastmail has this "Pin" feature that lets you pin emails so that they stick to the top of whatever folder they're in. I always wanted something like this in Gmail (like if starred messages stuck to the top or something). I think there's an option to toggle whether or not they float to the top if you're not a fan. Anyway, I'm not sure that having this feature has actually been beneficial to me in any way, but I like it a lot.


- The Fastmail interface is not as pretty as the Gmail interface. There is no option to get a big, beautiful background picture, and the interface doesn't really have space for it anyway. This bothered me a little at first, but these days I don't care... if I'm gazing longingly at the mountains in the background picture of my email, I'm being extraordinarily unproductive.

- Fastmail's auto-complete when you're typing in the recipient list does not keep track of who you send to most frequently and push them automatically to the top of the list. This still bothers me sometimes.

- Fastmail's settings pages are a little confusing. There are a couple different ways to get to them, and it can be a little tricky to figure out where you're supposed to find something. I've never been a fan of the way settings are organized in any email client, though... Gmail and Outlook have settings pages that aren't as terrible these days; Fastmail's settings are a little less refined. On the other hand, it seems like you can do a lot more with the settings in Fastmail (so this is a bit of a pro, not strictly a con).

- Fastmail has a folder system with nesting like Outlook. I don't think this is really a bad thing; I like the concept of Gmail's labels a lot, but I never found it to be significantly more useful than folders. What sucks about Fastmail's implementation is that to create folders or rearrange them, you have to enter this special folder management menu. Then to create a folder, you have to scroll all the way to the bottom and type the new name, and if you want it to be at the top, then you have to drag it up past all of the other folders, and there seems to be a max speed on how quickly you can drag it up, and it starts arbitrarily selecting the text as you're dragging and sometimes gets a little janky as you get to the top. Definitely my least favorite part of the interface.


- Not strictly a pro or a con in my opinion: there is no chat interface built-in (actually I'm not certain about that, there might be some option to enable chat and put in chat credentials, etc. but I haven't looked for it). Overall I think this has been very good for getting me in and out of my inbox very quickly and productively without any risk of distraction. I actually stopped using any form of chat until more recently when I needed it for work, and I think my quality of life was improved for it, but I know that for many people chat is an important part of communicating. But I haven't missed it in my webmail one bit.

Wow, that was a lot more than I expected to write! Anyway, to sum up, from my perspective as a web developer:

- Fastmail is faster and contributes better to getting things done, in my experience (worth the $60/yr for that reason alone)

- Fastmail has some nice options if you're setting up email inboxes for yourself for custom domains. I don't know if I would recommend it yet as a mail option for clients since it's a little less polished than Gmail and some of the settings options are a good deal more technical.

- Fastmail is a nice gateway drug to freeing yourself from the idea that Gmail is the be-all-end-all of email. Still waiting for someone more productive than myself to combine webmail, Trello, and Google Calendar into a glorious productivity app that ushers in a new era for humanity.

I've seen "no chat interface" come up in multiple gmail/fastmail comparisons, and I'm genuinely confused as to why. Do people expect email to come with a chat client? It seems weird to me to have email + xmpp/hangouts merged together and not separated (I use Adium, for instance). Email contacts are rarely people I chat with, with the exception of my innermost circle who I contact with pretty much everything, whichever fits best at the moment.

> The Fastmail interface is not as pretty as the Gmail interface.

I disagree, I find it prettier than gmail.

Pretty much agree with everything else you said.

One con I'd like to add: GMail has send and archive and you can set it as default. I really miss that in fastmail.

any offers / coupons / deals for hackernews readers ?

The spacing around "i"s is too much.

80k emails per ... a day? month?

edit: or it might be accounts?

Total. Article updated.

I have been looking for a free e-mail provider that takes privacy seriously. Isn't there anyone out there?

The best option I found, to match my own preferences, was Runbox:


Edited to apologise: The cheapest option seems to be $20pa, sorry. I find it excellent value.

What's your privacy risk assessment?

I just don't want advertising companies or the NSA sniffing around my personal communications. It has to be private as private should be.

> It has to be private as private should be.

But you also don't want to pay any money for it?

No. Do you believe that by paying money your privacy is guaranteed? Even Fastmail's privacy is doubtful regarding its non-US clients -which would be my case if i used it.

Paying for it allows them to spend time researching better systems and gives them some buffer in the dace of legal attack. See also anon.pennet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penet_remailer

Ok, but why would anyone set up and run an extremely privacy-hardened service for you, for free?

Probably because i am not the only one who would use it.

What would a company possibly have to gain by creating a service that a lot of people will use and not pay for?

Despite what you may have "learned" from the examples of Facebook and Twitter, companies giving away things for free isn't a very good business model.

Stopping advertising companies sniffing around is easy. Hushmail will do that.

Stopping a government is different. Are you preventing just the slurping of data? (Just because they have your emails in their cache doesn't mean they're grepping for you); or might you be targeted? In which case you're going to have to carefully use operating procedures and software. And make sure the people sending you email do the same. Also, you'll need better locks, and no windows on the ground floor and etc.

I find it suspicious that these Gmail -> Fastmail submissions appear relatively regularly, and then see an abnormally high number of supportive commentary, out of proportion with other posts at the same time of day.

I find it suspicious that every time a post that isn't supportive of Google is submitted, someone attempts to undermine it with innuendo.

I'm not related to Fastmail in any way, you can verify that easily. I'm just a simple but happy customer who likes to share when he think that it might be of interest to others.

I am related with FastMail (also pretty easily verifyable) - and we love how popular we are on HN. We do get kind of surprised at how often people post about loving us as well, but we're not complaining

(I'm sitting on my laptop during the break at my choir rehearsal today and reading through this thread to see if there are any questions I can answer. I'm doing this instead of going to get a coffee... which now that I think about it must mean I'm insane, because I'm going to need coffee to survive the next set of rehearsals. Madness. If anyone at Melbourne wants to come to an awesome concert next weekend, email me or something)

Same here. I've been with them since 2007 and they've made huge strides, especially with the recent interface overhaul.

Suspicious, how so? I've been using Fastmail for a few months and highly recommend it. My initial thought RE: the number of comments would be that many of the people who've switched to Fastmail are vocal in their support because they had specific reasons to switch.

I've been thinking about switching to fastmail from gmail for a while now, even going so far as to ask for people's opinions about it on reddit. Seeing this really convinces me I need to go ahead and make the switch, and I would assume I'm not alone in slowly becoming disenfranchised with gmail, hence the many posts you're seeing.

My issues with gmail have nothing to do with the email scanning, etc, and everything to do with the interface getting more complicated over time. I just want an email web interface that's simple, and common.

I think the Snowden submissions + Reader shutdown made many people switch => more articles about switching. I know I wanted to end my reliance on google services after the shutdown and ended up on fastmail after comparing many services.

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