End Of A Gmail Era

What happened was, after using Gmail for something like 18-20 years, I stopped doing that and moved to Proton Mail.

This does mark quite an end of an era. I've been using Gmail since it was invite-only. Internet old timers will remember anyone and everyone interested in tech around 2004-2005 wanted an invite. It was the tech Wonka's golden ticket at the time with invites being sold on eBay. Gmail was so unlike anything anyone had seen before in the webmail space. And it was good, like, extremely good.

After having a gmail.com email address for a while, I discovered what they were calling at the time Google Apps For Your Domain. Which, if you owned your own domain, you could pay Google a monthly fee and you could receive your domain's email in Gmail. What's not to love? The familiar interface without the need to use a separate email client. I did this for many many years and it has served this here domain very well indeed.

So, dear reader, why move away? Why now?

Over the years I've been making an incredibly slow but conscious effort to de-Google my life. Some of the tech has been undoubtedly cool. But they're an advertising company first, tech company second. Tracking is their bread and butter. I've used DuckDuckGo for search for as long as I can remember, and don't use Chrome. Gmail was always the elephant in the room. They're mining my data but it's just so convenient a service to use, and ugh migrating away sounds painful and that's a lot of work. Status Quo remained.

Two things happened in rather short succession. Firstly the inevitable email that prices were increasing. Then a terms of service update that didn't give me a warm fuzzy feeling about AI training data. It was time to spread my wings elsewhere.

Looking around I settled on two possible services, Fastmail and Proton Mail. Both had comparable pricing, features, iOS apps. I got a free trial for both and tested them out for a bit. At the end of the day I settled on Proton because a liked the web interface look & feel more than Fastmail. So on one particularly cloudy lazy Sunday afternoon a month ago I pulled the trigger.

I began with the somewhat nerve wracking modification of my DNS MX records to point everything at Proton. That just worked and new email started arriving. Then you run the migration tool – point it at your Gmail account and kick off the mass import of all the things. It does all that behind the scenes. All told I think the process took about six hours to complete. But it worked flawlessly. And I've been solely on Proton ever since.

Let me tell you one thing, you don't realize quite how many filters you've set in Gmail to send unwanted things to the trash. OMIGOD my inbox was swarming with marketing emails from pretty much every company ever. I began the task of creating those filters again but decided to do it all properly and actually unsubscribe from the marketing shit individually. And let me tell you that's a god damned wild west of email preference unsubscribe interfaces. Some just worked, some you have to enter your email address in, some just fail. It's all over the map. At this point I think I have everything covered. I haven't gotten a marketing email in a couple weeks.

So Kevin, de-Google your life huh? I presume you're not a hypocrite and have stopped using YouTube? We all know the answer to that one. There's no real other game in town. So what are you gonna do? It's complicated.

  1. Dave2 says:

    And here I was contemplating finally moving to Gmail because I have grown to hat Apple Mail so much!

    • kevin says:

      Gmail itself is a fantastic webmail client. Certainly don't let my opinion of Google sway your judgement. I didn't move because of any fault of Gmail. You'll be happy with it.

  2. kapgar says:

    I don't think I ever could leave Gmail or Google products. Way too invested and not at all interested in resetting. Plus I have to use it for work. Chrome is too universal for me to not be QCing websites in it.

    • kevin says:

      Heh. I get it man. I run a software development shop, and Chrome is one of the most popular browsers. So my dev and QA teams are in it day to day. This is just me and my personal preference.

  3. martymankins says:

    Quite the task but sounds like the effort was worth it in the end. There have been times over the last few years when I contemplated the Google free option for pretty much the same reasons – tracking, ad mining, etc. Instead I started moving more of my email delivery to other accounts like Apple Mail (have had that @mac.com address for well over 15 years now) and my personal account (I did a months long migration from another personal account I had for years)

    • kevin says:

      At the end of the day it was pretty easy to move once the choice had been made of where to move to. The import tools are slick, you set it and forget it. Bob's your uncle.

      And while I realize Google are now free to have its AI train on my old data, I don't have to support such a thing with my money any longer.

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