Gmail/Thunderbird alternative?
December 15, 2015 4:34 PM   Subscribe

I've been using Thunderbird a very long time. It's mostly great, but it's tied to my single work computer. The address book, complete with recipient photos; send messages; archived messages in a huge set of folders. What's a good web-based alternative? (Hint: not Gmail.)

* I don't like the idea of Gmail. While I know the NSA sees all, and nothing is secure without encryption, but I don't like the idea of Google tracking increasing amounts of my personal info. I'm not sure is any better on this.
* It should be a webmail system.
* It would be nice if it had a message import from Thunderbird, or at least my contacts.
* I'm going to access this mainly on desktop/laptop. I don't use my phone or tablet to get real work done.
* Happy to pay for it.

Note: The Virtru system can secure email, but most people I exchanged email with simply won't bother.
posted by 4midori to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a specific recommendation, but as long as whatever new system you pick supports IMAP, you can import your messages from Thunderbird by setting up the new account in Thunderbird and moving your existing locally-stored messages into your account's inbox (or the folder of your choice).
posted by Aleyn at 5:05 PM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I should've clarified, IMAP would only be for importing email. Contacts are a separate matter, but exporting contacts is easy and most competent providers should allow you to import the resulting file.
posted by Aleyn at 5:09 PM on December 15, 2015

I've heard lots of good things about Fastmail.
posted by jillithd at 5:10 PM on December 15, 2015 [7 favorites]

I've been a satisfied user of Outlook for more than a decadeā€¦until the last few weeks. They've overhauled their email program and, rather than improving the interface, they've set it back by a milestone. While I can't tell you what to use, and can tell you what NOT to use: Outlook!
posted by zagyzebra at 5:11 PM on December 15, 2015

Best answer: I've been using Fastmail for a while now, a great fan. Their webmail is solid, and their IMAP implementation flawless (unlike GMail which is full of a bunch of weird hacks). They also seem like a bunch of super honest folks, so I'm happy to pay them.

Personally I use mutt for offline access via IMAP, but its certainly not to everyones tastes, but is extremely powerful.

If you too decide to start paying them, here's my referal link if you're feeling super kind: (or just click the link above, which isn't a referal)
posted by Whoop at 5:23 PM on December 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

Fastmail or Tutanota. Fastmail is a tiered pay service (no free option beyond a 30 day trial) based in Australia and geared toward small business - along with email you get calendars, file sharing options and simple webhosting (at 40$ a year). They're a little unclear as to how much of your information is encrypted and how private your data is kept. Tutanota is a free (with paid options) service based in Germany and geared toward privacy - it's pretty bare bones right now, but their goal is to replace all the google offerings with open source, encrypted versions (right now they offer email and simple webhosting, with calendar and storage on the way). They're much more clear about their encryption and privacy protocols. Both services have integrated iOS and Android apps - with Tutanota, all local data is also encrypted.

Having used both, I'm personally a huge fan of Tutanota - but Fastmail is the more mature service (Fastmail is ~15 years old, Tutanota only ~5 years). YMMV.
posted by givennamesurname at 6:55 PM on December 15, 2015

4thing givennamesurname, Whoop and jillithd. I've used Fastmail for close to a decade now because it just works. I keep several email accounts at various services including my ISP but feed them all into Fastmail. It has never failed me.

Its list of related services (aliases, signatures etc.) is pretty exhaustive, too.

I really don't mind paying for such a good service. And it's not expensive -- I think I pay less than $40 U.S. annually.
posted by key_of_z at 8:41 PM on December 15, 2015

posted by ead at 8:45 PM on December 15, 2015

Fastmail is worth the money. Until recently you had to get an address, but they have now registered The interface is great, they're a mature profitable company and they are always investing in improving their product (e.g. they just added push email for iOS, which you're unlikely to get from any other IMAP provider because the APIs aren't public). It has contacts and recently a calendar. They don't read your email, but serious paranoiacs* should probably look for a solution focused around strong encryption.

*(although at this point paranoia is pretty justified)
posted by vogon_poet at 9:03 PM on December 15, 2015

One possibility would be to get hold of a NAS device to act as your "web based" mail server. For example I use a QNAP Turbo NAS TS-251 to handle storage, media streaming, provision of a VPN gateway and deal with mail (you can then add simple cloud-based backup). You can then carry right along using whatever mail reader you like.

You don't particularly mention mobile access, but I have found the Outlook email client on iOs to be better than alternatives than Apple Mail or Gmail apps.
posted by rongorongo at 11:43 PM on December 15, 2015

A different thing that may be of use:
MozBackup is a great free Windows tool that will easily make a full backup of all things Thunderbird, so you can move your mail and contacts to a different computer. While you're searching for the web solution that suits your needs, a backup is nice to have.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:23 AM on December 16, 2015

I've been using Fastmail since the beginning of 2013 (so coming up on three years now), and have been thoroughly satisfied with it. It meets all the email needs I'd come to expect from a webmail provider.

Prior to Fastmail, my primary email address was with Gmail, and I made the switch away from Google for the same reasons you're considering (the level of tracking getting to the "this is creepy" stage).

Fastmail customer support is fast, professional, clear and helpful.

The Fastmail calendar has may useful features, although I don't know if that's relevant to you.

I know you said you don't intend to use email on your phone, but just FYI, the Fastmail app for smartphones is good quality and a pleasure to use.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 4:34 AM on December 16, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Fastmail looks like a solid contender.
posted by 4midori at 2:23 PM on December 17, 2015

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