Changing your email provider? Concerned about surveillance and misaligned incentives of a free account at Google, Microsoft, Apple and the like? I'll tell you what I think.

You might have heard, “If you're not paying for the product, you are the product.” It means when they give us email “for free”, their real customers (advertisers) are paying them for our data, buying our attention, buying our loyalty.

If you want not-evil, you have to pay for it.

(Thanks for that quote, Adrian!)

My choice: I use and recommend FastMail, https://fastmail.com . Australian company with good world-wide coverage and credentials. Their “standard” package at around £5/month.

Own Domain

Call Me By My Name

Before you sign up with any provider, take a moment to consider one thing. If you are leaving a free provider, you have to change your email address. Why? Because you didn't own your address, they did. So you can't take it with you. You have to change it to a new one.

But now, if you're willing to pay for email at all, this is your opportunity: you can make a huge leap to future-proof yourself, by moving to your own domain. (More about #ownDomain.)


Self-hosting: it's difficult, inefficient, fragile. So why do I do it?

I self-host, unwillingly, in order to own my own identity. I insist on my online identity being independent. I don't accept being Julian @ some-messaging-co or Julian @ some-video-sharing-co today, and Julian @ some-other-co tomorrow. I'm just Julian @ my-own-domain. Services may come and go, while this remains my identity under my control for as long as I choose.

For many services today, unfortunately, self-hosting is the ugly means to this desired end.

With any proprietary services, I'm unable to be me. So I use open standards.

Without self-hosting, currently, I'm unable to be me. So I self-host.


You’re my uncle, sister, friend, mother, nephew or colleague. You want to message me, send me your photos and news, read my latest blog post, have a video call. Where do you go, online? You know my phone number, my email address, but just now you're not looking to call or email me.


Since going own-domain a few years ago, I chose Fastmail for email and Gandi.net for DNS, both of them for their FOSS-friendly credentials and no-nonsense decent standard-based offerings with APIs and docs etc., suitable from casual home use up to business use.

My brief assessment of Fastmail for my use case. Positives:

  • general reliability and speed have been fine;
  • supporting FOSS by developing important new JMAP standard;
  • exceptionally good webmail client but see negatives about it;
  • exceptionally good config settings UI and associated docs.

Fastmail negatives:

  • webmail is proprietary, in a world desperately needing a decent FOSS webmail client;
  • webmail only stores email contact addresses in their own address book, whereas I host my own personal CardDAV/CalDAV address book and calendar elsewhere (in my Nextcloud) and use them for other things like mobile phone calls and other mobile apps — these days they are not primarily for use with my email — so that doesn't work for me;
  • Fastmail data backup/takeout is poor, I discovered recently: “install a desktop IMAP client to make a local sync of your mail, and visit these various pages to download your various other data in various ways.” Ugh, yes, really.

That all said, for now I'm sticking with Fastmail for my mail hosting.

Which mail client, then? Proprietary software, and the kind of “soft lock-in” associated with it, irks me so much that I stopped using Fastmail's lovely-to-use webmail after a few years. Currently I use these freedom-software mail clients: K-9 Mail on (degoogled) mobile, and Mailspring desktop-webmail client (pretty decent, better than Roundcube/Rainloop/Snappymail), and I am also coming back after a break of several years to Thunderbird on desktop, now that it is enjoying a bit of an overhaul and a revival.



My outlook on this area of life is exemplified by the addresses I list on my “Contacts” page:

  •  julian . foad.me.uk (my web site address)
  •  julian @ foad.me.uk (my email address)
  • @julian : foad.me.uk (my matrix address)
  • @julian @ fed.foad.me.uk (my fediverse address) [1]

These are my addresses on different systems. See how they are all substantially the same (except for formatting and a subdomain)? They all take the form: <my-name> <at> <my-domain>. More importantly, see how they are all owned by myself? My addresses all belong to my domain, not to any service provider's domain.

In today's broken Internet we're told it's normal to identify ourself using addresses we don't own:

  • my.whole.name @ megacorpmail.com
  • an.other.name @ big.mastodon.instance
  • choose.a.name @ matrix.org

Two problems. First, what we call “our” addresses are in fact not ours at all, they are owned and controlled by the service providers. Second, we are forced to use lots of different addresses, a different one for each provider.

I call this an anti-pattern.


Where does your project live? Where do people find it? Who controls how people access your project's resources on the Internet?


Github the Mega-Mall

See also: Open Tech, Be Very Afraid

In practice, what do ninety-something percent of small FOSS projects do? They sign up on Microsoft Github. If we are one of these, then we feel our little project has a home on the Internet, its own address: https://github.com/our-name/our-repo. Oops, but did I say an address of its own? Well, there's the catch. I meant an address of Microsoft's own.

Github is a Gatekeeper. Every link to our project now takes the reader through a virtual gateway owned and ruled by Github's owner, Microsoft. The domain name is the gate, and its owner holds the key. Want to visit the source code? Before we reach our-name/our-repo we must walk through their gate at github.com. We must pass through whatever they put in the gateway. Ads? Nagging to sign up? Then they will let us visit the source code that we feel is “ours”.


Getting an official fediverse account for your organisation? Name it at your own existing domain: @ news @ our.example.org.