Email is not broken

Written by Regis Freyd and published on August 4, 2020

There has been a lot of talks about email being broken since the launch of Hey!.

Why would it be?

  • Too much spam.
  • Too many newsletters.
  • Sluggy or unpolished email clients.

I don't have any of these problems. Email is not broken at all for me. And I believe Fastmail is the main reason why.

The first rule of email

First of all, you should never, ever give your email address to people or systems who would use it in a conversation other than a 1-on-1 relationship.

That means to not give your email address:

  • To someone who would put you in a 50 people private mailing list to invite you for a kid’s birthday — of course not in BCC. Very quickly, your email address will be all around the Internet.
  • To a system, like a newsletter, that will surely resell your data.
  • To a new site when you create your account, that will also surely resell your data.

If you don't give your email address, what should you do

This is how I envision the perfect system to never be bothered by unsolicited emails ever again:

  • Your primary email address should only be given to people you absolutely trust.
  • You need to have one email address per account (or newsletter) that you have. Yes, that means potentially have 400 different email addresses.
  • If you receive spam, you simply delete this email address from your system and you’ll never be bothered again by this spam.
  • You need to be able to quickly identify which site leaked your data. To either update the email address with a new one, or insult the site on Twitter.

Aliases: the spam destroyer

Enter the power of aliases. Fastmail lets you create as many email addresses as you want, that you can use to receive emails. Use those aliases when you sign up somewhere. If you happen to receive spam, or unwanted emails, simply delete the alias, and never hear about the spam ever again.

An email address has two parts: the part before the @ symbol (the local-part), and the part after the @ symbol (the domain name).

Fastmail lets you enter your own local-part, and provides at least 50 domains to choose from.

The rule is to use a name for this email address that will quickly let you identify which site actually spammed you. You need to follow your own convention to name these aliases. I suggest you follow this: sitename+few letters of your first name + few letters of your last name with one of the 50 domains Fastmail gives you to choose from.

Let’s say you are called Henri Lait. If you had to create an account on Twitter, you could use something like “twitterhenril@sent.as”. On Facebook, “facebookhenril@mms.com”. You get the idea.

Then, when you are spammed by one of these sites, or if they end up being leaked, you simply have to delete this alias and simply move on. The spammer will never know that they can’t reach you again. But you will know which site spammed you, or which site sold your data.

The drawback

The only drawback of this system is to set it up in the first place. It can be pretty time consuming to update all existing sites or newsletters with a custom email address for each one of these. Also, you need to create an alias for every new account you will want to use in the future. I believe it’s worth it.

Conclusion

Personally, I have more than 500 aliases now. Every one of my account has a custom alias. My spam folder currently has only 2 emails, although is empty, most of the time.

If you use one custom alias per account, and set up 2FA on each one of these, I believe we have one of the most secure system you can find.

avatar regis freyd

Regis Freyd is a full-stack developer and product manager living in Montreal. He’s the author of the popular open source personal CRM Monica. You should follow him on Twitter.

Hi from Canada 🇨🇦

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