Email is becoming an increasingly predominant and integral form of communication for many people and is being used for a wide variety of purposes.
Whether it be for keeping in contact with friends, family and co-workers, or for transmitting and sharing files, documents or photos, or even just for sharing your favourite quote of the day, email has become a vital part of the every day life of virtually all computer users.
Consequently, it is important to start considering the ownership, management and long-term sustainable use of your email address.
Master Your Domain – Own Your E-Mail Address
The vast majority of internet users use one or combination of either a (i) free webmail address, (ii) the email address provided by their ISP, or (iii) an email address provided by their work. This article discusses each of these accounts, and the potential problems associated with them, and then presents the advantages of owning your own email address.
Free webmail address
The best example of this is probably Microsoft’s Hotmail. In January 1998, Microsoft, recognising the value that email would play in any future online strategy of their company purchased Hotmail for US$400 million. At the time Hotmail only had around nine million users; it now has well over 120 million users and is easily the largest free email account provider. Over the years, Microsoft has continued to use Hotmail to lever its other products and services, and drives users to upgrade to paid accounts which provider greater disk space.
Microsoft is far from alone with this strategy – virtually every other “free” email account provider attempts to lure their users into paid accounts and may even reduce the services in the free account to provide more incentive to “upgrade”. It is logical that as the recipient of a free email address, you have no guarantee over how your account is being run, what sort of service you can expect, or what limitations will be imposed upon it in the future, or indeed whether it will remain in existence at all.
Email address provided by an ISP
Internet service providers (ISPs), such as Coralwave and Batelco provide email accounts as a standard part of their service. Unlike the “free” email accounts described above, ISPs don’t tend to use the email addresses for promoting other services – chances are you are already a paying customer. The main problem with making use of the email address that your ISP provides, is that you become bound to your ISP – most ISPs will not allow you to shift to another ISP and retain your original email address (at least not without paying for the privilege). There are many reasons that the ISP you first signed up with may not be ideal in the future – substandard service quality, lack of associated services (e.g. broadband, virus/spam filtering), uncompetitive pricing, or even just a change of address, are just a few reasons why you may wish to change ISPs in the future. Changing ISPs should be as simple a decision as changing an insurance provider or bank; however, being bound to your ISP by an email address adds a whole layer of undesirable complexity to the matter.
Work email address
Many work places provide email addresses for their employees. Although these email addresses are obviously provided for work purposes, for many people their work email address is their only email address. There are many potential problems with relying on your work email for non-work communications. Apart from
the fact that you may not be able to access your email outside of work and that your employer may object to the work email account being used for personal use, the major concern lies with privacy – it’s just too easy for work colleagues to get access to your email. Most of the other disadvantages with using work email address for personal use are the same as those already described with free and ISP provided addresses, i.e. minimal control over account features and no guarantee over the future of your email address.
Owning your own email address
Apart from a personalised domain name (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org), the fundamental difference between the three types of email addresses discussed above, and owning your own email address, is control. When you are the owner of the domain name that your email address belongs to, you automatically have full control
over where, how and with whom your email is managed. This brings many advantages: you choose how much disk space you have access to, what filtering features you can use, how securely your mail is delivered, your preference for a webmail interface, and so on. Furthermore, in the event that the host managing your domain name and email account becomes unreliable or uncompetitive in terms of price and features, you can change with minimal fuss. Consequently, the owning of your email address represents a guaranteed life-long online contact solution.
The use of free webmail, ISP, or work email addresses does not provide a viable long-term solution for using the internet as a personal contact medium. Owning your own domain name, and hence email address, allows your email address to be entirely independent of any specific company or organisation. It provides complete freedom in how your online contact identity is managed.