It was January, 2005. Google had launched its invitation-only beta release of Gmail just a few months ago. The initial storage capacity of 1 GB was dramatic, with its closest competitors offering an anemic 15 or 20 MB. My beta invite had finally arrived and I was in the process of signing up for an account. The excitement was palpable, “It’s email… but by Google! 1 GB of space… who could possibly use that much? And the web interface is so fast!”
Jump ahead ten years to January, 2015 and you’ll find me ditching my Gmail account in favor of FastMail, a move that has been long overdue. “But why ditch Gmail?” you may ask. I have my reasons.
First and most importantly, I’ve come to the conclusion that I want my email to be reasonably private. I just don’t like the idea of Google scanning my email and pulling out little bits of information about my personal life and buying habits. The speed, storage space, and features that Gmail offered used to offset the privacy disadvantage in my mind, but they don’t any longer.
Gmail used to be fast. Really fast. It’s not anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fairly zippy, but it’s definitely slowed down over the years as the interface has grown increasingly more complex and bloated. I’ve found FastMail to be true to its name: it’s just as fast as Gmail. And the web interface is simple and non-bloated. I like simple.
Another change in Gmail that really bothered me was the introduction of the social tabs. I know these tabs can be disabled now, but I don’t like the way it was initially forced on us. And I definitely don’t like the impact it had on legitimate email marketing. The average user isn’t going to notice their email is suddenly getting filtered into separate tabs, much less figure out how to turn it off.
When it comes down to it, I’d rather pay FastMail for an equal amount of storage space, reliability, and speed as Gmail. I no longer have to deal with the ads, the privacy violations, or the sudden feature changes. Don’t fool yourself: you’re already paying for a free service like Gmail, just not with cash. You yourself are the payment: a consumer to be analyzed and sold to. And Google is very good at doing just that.
And hey, Marco Arment recommends FastMail so it’s got to be good, right? Here’s what he says about the benefit of having an email address ending in a domain name that you control:
For something as important as email, I’ve never trusted everything to a proprietary provider. My email address has never ended in someone else’s domain name, and has never been hosted in any way that would preclude me from easily switching to another provider.
The transition to FastMail was very smooth. It was just a matter of modifying a couple of DNS records and using FastMail’s excellent IMAP import tool to transfer a decade’s worth of email from Gmail (this did take a few hours). I’m still able to check my FastMail account from my iOS devices, and I use their web interface on my desktop through a Fluid app.
If you’re looking for a new email provider comparable to Gmail, I can recommend FastMail without hesitation.
Fastmail is an amazing service. I switched several years ago when I needed pro IMAP options and something that I could potentially route my owned domains through.
The virtual domains option in Fastmail is just plain amazing. I can’t imagine why anyone would not want this option vs. using email options provided by your hosting company. Sending everything through FM is just better, and allows you to almost at will create new email addresses for any domain you have linked.
Then there is the privacy issue. I’m not sure why people continue to be so shocked that companies like Google do this. There is no such thing as free. It might not cost money, it costs little bits of “you”. What you do, where you’ve been. Or, you can pay a company like Fastmail a mere $40.00 a year and get more options than you ever had before. I’d rather pay a few bucks, personally.
I should note that I don’t work for them. I have just been very happy with their service for a number of years now, so I give them good praise when it comes up.
Hi Just on the fastmail… Looking at their terms and conditions:
However, with respect to Content you submit or make available for public or shared access on the Service, you grant a world-wide, royalty free and non-exclusive license(s) to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Service solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available.
Does this mean they can use your stuff ? Even stuff in emails, or only in their cloud services?