How to get a firstname.lastname email address with a common name?
May 29, 2007 1:00 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way for someone with a common name to get a permanent firstname.lastname email address?

When I first went online in 1995, I picked an email address in tribute to my new puppy. Unfortunately, he's probably not got that many years left in him (he is twelve, after all), and I really don't want to go on using his name as my email address after he's gone.

I'd like an address that sounds a little more professional than my dog's name, preferably something that incorporates MY name. Unfortunately, both my first and last names are very common, so all of the firstname.lastname@hotmail/yahoo/gmail variations are long gone. I have a work email address which I can use for personal email, but I'd rather keep work and play separate, plus what happens when I change jobs? (Same thing with my home ISP -- it's local, and what happens if the company gets bought or I move out of the area?) I'm looking for an addy that I can keep more or less indefinitely. Bonus points if I can access it via webmail and is free or cheap. (I'm willing to pay a reasonable amount to make this happen, but free is always good!)

The ideas I've come up with so far:

* register my own domain and have email hosted somewhere.

* register my own domain and run my own mail server.

* find someplace I'm marginally connected with and convince them to give me an email address.

* send an email to firstname.lastname@gmail/hotmail/yahoo and offer to buy the address from them.

Obviously all of these options vary wildly in the degree of effort and cost required. How have the rest of you with generic names resolved this? Is there another way that I'm missing?
posted by harkin banks to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you register your own domain, you can then run gmail on that domain, which might simplify option 1.
posted by awesomebrad at 1:06 PM on May 29, 2007

I'd register my own domain then have that email point to a gmail account which can then send and receive as the firstname.lastname@superawesomedomain account. has some help in that regard.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 1:07 PM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

What about using the .name TLD? Not many people have those addresses. I recently switched over to for my e-mail; I figure that should last me for life, don't need to switch ever again.
posted by Khalad at 1:30 PM on May 29, 2007

Easy solution: go first name two dots lastname john..smith. or middle initial john.x.smith@whatever.

Difficult solution: buy domain name, pay every year, setup either forwarding or hosting.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:33 PM on May 29, 2007

Try Excellent free webmail, and I'm guessing you can find your name there on one of their available domains.
posted by jbickers at 1:34 PM on May 29, 2007

Khalad, good thought, but is taken.
posted by harkin banks at 1:39 PM on May 29, 2007

Permanence is kind of a crapshoot, isn't it? You can buy a domain name and assume you'll be able to renew and update the mail server records every year. You can rely on gmail, hotmail, or another free or paid service and assume that they'll be around indefinitely. Or, you can just bite the bullet and realize that a pretty good email address is better than none at all and just run with that.

As for the actual title question, you sign up quickly. As soon as gmail was available, I registered mike.harper as my user name (which is actually the same as mikeharper or m.ikeharper since gmail ignores periods, but whichever). So that's the answer: when a service pops up, you jump on it.
posted by mikeh at 1:42 PM on May 29, 2007

I'd register my own domain then have that email point to a gmail account which can then send and receive as the firstname.lastname@superawesomedomain account.

The only problem with this is that outlook/exchange server users will see your gmail address too. The address is reported as something like:

FROM: on behalf of
posted by chrisamiller at 1:43 PM on May 29, 2007

As an addendum, I'd like to mention that having a isn't all it's cracked up to be. There is at least one guy whose friends occasionally send me mail, and it's confusing because he is also Mike Harper. That'll happen with generic names, but not nearly as often.
posted by mikeh at 1:43 PM on May 29, 2007

anything @
posted by imaswinger at 1:44 PM on May 29, 2007

Outlook/exchange servers don't see the Gmail address for a Google MyApps for My Domain Account, at least for me. My mail comes in to any other system as, even though it's a Gmail account.

If you can buy (or .org or .net) it's the best solution -- highly memorable to anyone. Depending on the popularity of your name, though, you are probably SOL on that one.
posted by spitbull at 1:54 PM on May 29, 2007

A lot of universities offer alumni email accounts (many of which just forward to the email address of your choice). If your university offers them, this might be a good option... there is a decent chance you could find and then have it forward to the yahoo/gmail/etc account of your choice.
posted by stilly at 1:54 PM on May 29, 2007

Easy solution: go first name two dots lastname john..smith. or middle initial john.x.smith@whatever.

I think the standard ignores '.'. Even if it doesn't, many (most?) email servers do.

Middle initial or name might be the way to go.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 2:07 PM on May 29, 2007

Like mikeh, I occasionally get email at my "firstname.lastname" account that is meant for people of the same name whose addresses are "firstname_lastname" or "firstnamelastname". In fact, I used to get email regularly from one girl's father that contained extremely personal medical and financial information. I'd write back pointing out the error, but he thought I was his daughter and playing a joke on him - it took me a month to convince him that he had the wrong email.

Anyway, point being that I'd avoid the "two dots" solution as I think it'd make similar errors very common. If somebody gave me a two-dot address, I'd assume they'd made a typo or I'd misheard. I prefer the "firstname.middleinitial.lastname" solution.

That being said, I think your idea of emailing people and offering to purchase their address has a shot of success. I registered "firstname.lastname" at different providers as they launched, and I never use the older addresses. If I got an email asking to buy one of them, I'd probably sell it for a token amount.

If you went to college, the other thing you could investigate is alumni addresses - lots of universities offer " addresses.
posted by lalex at 2:10 PM on May 29, 2007

Have you considered lastname.firstname? Not that uncommon; there're a few universities and at least one government doing it that way.

If you're literally John Smith, never mind, but if you're Jonathan Smitty, you've got a fair shot at it, I'd think?
posted by kmennie at 2:11 PM on May 29, 2007

No, periods are legal. It just cant be the first or last character in the email address. More here.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:19 PM on May 29, 2007

Have you tried getting an address at the Super Dimensional Fortress?
posted by solotoro at 2:24 PM on May 29, 2007

Check your name at They are relatively unknown (perfect for sites that require a "real" address rather than a web address) and at least as stable as hotmail.
posted by Mitheral at 2:43 PM on May 29, 2007

Another smaller email service where you might be able to get your name is Also you could try reading up at
posted by yarrow at 3:09 PM on May 29, 2007

Thanks for all the responses. I'll be checking out the suggestions for lesser-known free mail providers providers in a bit -- maybe I'll get lucky.

The stories of mistaken identity are interesting -- I hadn't considered that aspect. More troubling than other people's clueless relatives sending sensitive information to me is the thought of MY clueless relatives sending personal info to one of the other harkin bankses out there.

For those of you suggesting alternate versions (firstname.mi.lastname, lastname.firstname, etc.) at the major free webmail providers, they're pretty much gone. I'm not quite John X. Smith, but my name *is* very common. You know those automated kiosks at the airport where you swipe a credit card to check in? I used one last Thursday and there were three other people flying out of that airport on that day who shared my first and last name.

I think I'll also send out a few emails to obvious variations of my name, just to see if anyone's willing to sell at a reasonable price. Domain registration and hosting costs what, a minimum of $30/yr? So if this is an address I want to keep for 10 years, I'd be willing to pay $250 - 300 to avoid the maintenance hassles. But if that fails then I'll register a domain (I have one in mind that's not taken yet) and just become Using Google Apps to run Gmail on sounds like a good solution -- I didn't know you could do that, thanks awesomebrad!
posted by harkin banks at 3:15 PM on May 29, 2007

Heh, I second SDF. I got my exceedingly common first name. Alone. This was, hm, back in 2000 or so, but still, it's not let me down and it does have some old-skool charm in it.
posted by cobaltnine at 3:21 PM on May 29, 2007

I'd suggest just getting a domain and any one of the thousands of 5-10 dollar a month web hosting accounts that are available. You get a pretty much permanent email address, plus some web hosting space. If you want something profressional, you can do better than @yahoo/etc in my opinion.

But then, I have a email address, which is kind of cool. might be another option as well.
posted by alikins at 5:15 PM on May 29, 2007

There's a heap of Stephen Thomases, but there's still only one flabdablet as far as I know. Using also makes life slightly harder for spammers - commonfirstname.commonsurname@wellknownprovider will get lots more spam than obscure.non.word@wellknownprovider.
posted by flabdablet at 5:28 PM on May 29, 2007

I asked a very similar AskMeFi thread once. Here's a link to it, if you'd like to comb it for more answers.

A friend with a very common name needs an email address (that includes her name) for resumes and such...
posted by cadastral at 10:36 PM on May 29, 2007

Before paying for an address, find out if you have any friends with a domain who'd be willing to give you an address. Alternatively, you could find out if you have friends with similar needs and get them to help you offset costs or work for maintaining your own domain/mail server.
posted by carmen at 7:38 AM on May 30, 2007

When I finally go onto gmail, my name was also taken. So I put my middle initial in there as well:
posted by coolin86 at 11:55 AM on May 30, 2007

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