Google: the evil hour cometh. Looking for a new webmail provider.
August 26, 2013 7:44 AM   Subscribe

So how evil is

Google's IPO was nine years ago, which means they're now well past Peak Non-Evil and sliding rapidly into the predicted slough of despond. I hated the last Gmail makeover with a passion, I hate the new Gmail "compose experience" even more, and I'm sick of telling them I don't want my non-online name attached to a YouTube account I never asked for and knowing full well that they are going to do that anyway. We are about to part ways.

So I'm looking for a freebie web mail service that's as good as Gmail used to be, and's offering looks pretty good on the face of it. What would I miss if I switched?

Things I value about Gmail: huge storage allocation, pleasant looking web interface (now available only via Stylish, unfortunately), conversation threading, online text IM, IMAP access, POP3 fetching from other providers, support for multiple sending addresses, high availability, truly excellent spam filter, labels with nesting, large attachment size, long term idle account retention, ability to monitor recent logon activity, ability to sign out other logon sessions, support for passwords with 100+ bits of entropy.

Things I never use and have no desire to use: video chat, Orkutbuzzwavegoogle+, two factor auth, access via mobile phone.

Deal breakers: ads that Adblock Plus won't block.

Thanks, all.
posted by flabdablet to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
My vote, oddly enough, is for a personal hosted Exchange account. (Used with a personal domain.) OWA is as good as webmail gets.

The host I've been using for years is Webville. They are reasonably priced, almost never have downtime, and run by an ever pleasant and diligent gentleman racer, Bill. Accounts have 25gb of storage.

Not free, but still. What I use.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:04 AM on August 26, 2013

I see you've tagged this 1and1. I'll strongly recommend against 1and1 as an email provider, if you're considering them. They routinely show up on blacklists because they're so big that they can't/won't curtail spamming activity by their customers, so your outgoing messages will sometimes be rejected by the recipient's server.
posted by kalapierson at 8:43 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: gets recommended a fair bit on Hacker News. I've just signed up for a trial, so don't have a lot to add beyond that yet :D
posted by wrok at 8:48 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I used for years before I got an early invite to Gmail and was sold on the hook of storage space. Fastmail was good, had great custom filtering, had really neat anti-spam tricks at the time and probably still does. For example, if your email address is you can send to [anything] and it'll end up in your inbox with no other configuration on your part. That way if you're buying a product from Skeezy Web you can enter your email address as and it'll show up in your inbox ... and later you'll know if they sold your address. (I hear that Gmail does plus-addressing but some places know to strip that out.)

Ah, they have a help page on plus-addressing and subdomain addressing.

One thing that drove me nuts - and this was in 2004, so take this with whatever quantity of salt is necessary - is that people would constantly trip over the domain They couldn't comprehend anything that didn't end in .com. I don't think that'd be as much of an issue nowadays but I could be wrong. Anyway, Fastmail has a whole host of domains to choose from or you can use your own.

writing all of this down is making me wonder why I am not transitioning back to Fastmail, honestly.
posted by komara at 9:00 AM on August 26, 2013

Response by poster: Last time I had to use OWA was eight years ago, and I utterly loathed it. It looked horrible on anything but IE and its filter couldn't forward incoming mail to another account without messing with the To: and From: headers and adding Fwd: to the subject. Has that improved?

More things I value about Gmail: straightforward rule-based filtering that Just Works; ability to sync contacts with Thunderbird using Zindus. is a 1&1 subsidiary, I believe; hence the tag. I hadn't considered the blacklisting issue but it does appear to be a live one and the last update on the Known Issues page addressing it was in 2011.

Also, this:
GMX applies only the best anti-virus products from our partner McAfee, software also used by financial institutions and the military. And that’s serious security!
Oh dear.

Never mind. If my original prediction was on the money I have another year before Gmail becomes totally intolerable. Might be time to bite the bullet and consider paying for something.
posted by flabdablet at 9:03 AM on August 26, 2013

OWA works alright for me in the major browsers, Windows and OS X. I don't ever use IE. Ever.

It's not as streamlined as gmail, obviously, it still tries to act like a desktop app in clunky ways, but it's the only other webmail interface that feels like real email to me. And I've gone to extremes like setting up Roundcube on a VPS. Eventually I gave up.

I think the headers problem has to do with the rule action you used: you probably want "redirect" instead of "forward." I think redirect leaves the headers intact (and might give some kind of warning about sender identity when you select it). Granted, that's some annoying Microsoft opacity.

One of the reasons I've liked Exchange is that almost everything can sync with it, natively via IMAP, or else their proprietary ActiveSync or MAPI or whatever it's called this year, or through Outlook (which you get for free with a hosted account) or else via some other interchange mechanism. Counterintuitively, the coverage of the various open or free software sync methods is more scattershot.

It's bloated and ugly, but it's a known quantity, it works, your data won't be lost, and because you're paying for it your data won't be mined. I'd go ahead and and try out other solutions that might be offered here first, though, maybe there's something better or at least good enough these days.

You could roll your own equivalent to most of the free services out there with a really cheap webhosting account, which come with fairly generous storage for email purposes, and whatever webmail their Cpanel/Fantastico installer offers. But then you need to worry about your own backups and security and spam filtering and such. And, as I mentioned above, you might still not be satisfied with the results.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:25 AM on August 26, 2013

I have both a GMail and a GMX account. I like them both for different reasons. GMX has good spam filtering and has the ability to pick 10 alias names that you can use to get email in your inbox. Essentially, 10 email addresses for one primary login. Storage is good. I forward the emails and that works routinely. I do not know about POP3 fetching. I know you don't care about mobile phone access, but their app is decent.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:26 AM on August 26, 2013

I've used GMX pop email for 10 years or so. I nearly never use the web for it, and generally don't use it for out-going mail. No problems.
posted by Goofyy at 9:42 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're going to pay for something you may as well get your own domain and just host your own email (at least that's my opinion). Of course, you'd want to find out what webmail is provided/installed by default (unless you have the chops to securely install, configure and update your own server). At least that's my thoughts.

Any other system you work with always has the potential to be "evil" and fuck you over eventually. Only a self hosted solution will be the way you want it. Of course, that would mean the code is updated and not deviating too far from what it started as.

I think roundcube is a nice system from what I've seen.
posted by symbioid at 11:50 AM on August 26, 2013

I've been using for nearly 10 years. I couldn't tell you how distinct and are (.com is a relatively recent invention), though they both seem to be owned by 1&1. The webmail interface isn't great and I think got worse when they tried to make it 'modern'. The free email doesn't come with IMAP, though I think it might on I've never had problems with outgoing mail, but I don't use it that often. It tends to be a little overzealous with spam filtering, but it does a good job of learning if you tell it something is or is not spam. I don't think it fetches from other providers using POP3, you'd have to forward.

Summary: no complaints, but I can't possibly imagine GMX being not evil. bears a certain resemblance to websites of various tabloids, after all.
posted by hoyland at 12:10 PM on August 26, 2013

I've had an account at for about five years, which I've accessed primarily first via IMAP into Thunderbird and later via POP3 into Gmail. Like hoyland, I have no major complaints (though I'm also not overly fond of the web interface and don't much use it, but it does work well enough when I do) but neither can I make a statement about its level of evil.

The multiple aliases are both handy and easy to use, and I can't recall having had particular issues with outgoing mail getting spamfiltered by recipients. On the other hand, in my experience the spam filter isn't nearly as good as Gmail's--I get quite a bit of spam going to my inbox in GMX that Gmail subsequently accurately filters out.
posted by beryllium at 12:55 PM on August 26, 2013

If you're willing to pay a modest sum ($2 - $3/month), check out Rackspace Email. It is IMAP, so your mail is synced easily between multiple devices. Their security, server backups, and spam filtering services are top-notch, the user interface for the webmail is quite nice, and its easy to use your own client. They help you get the settings configured correctly. You can also create 4 email aliases (which is good for having a separate "online shopping/junk mail" email address). You pair it with your own domain name (separate fee - I use Network Solutions, but there are many more vendors out there). The benefits: no one is reading/data mining your email.
posted by apennington at 7:14 PM on August 26, 2013

Response by poster: I see Rackspace asking $10/month (minimum of 5 mailboxes @$2). Where are you seeing $2 - $3?
posted by flabdablet at 7:58 PM on August 26, 2013

Re the 5 mailbox minimum - sorry, my bad. We have a small business client that adores Rackspace Email, but I didn't catch the minimum mailboxes.
posted by apennington at 8:21 AM on August 27, 2013

Best answer: I've been using Fastmail.FM for almost 10 years. They've been constantly improving in an incremental, opt-in, no-foisting fashion. Also, their weblog should be held up as a role model of transparency.
posted by whuppy at 9:54 AM on August 27, 2013

Response by poster: Fastmail it is then. Thanks, all.
posted by flabdablet at 8:36 AM on March 4, 2014

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