Before the 1990s the internet was largely limited to academia and military use. It was complex to use – there was no World Wide Web – with tools like Telnet and Gopher the norm. Setting up an email account was a reasonably complex task, so early ISPs provided email as a service to their customers.
As well as being a very useful free service for customers, it was also an important tool for service providers. They realised changing an email address would, in future, be as painful as changing phone numbers. By giving everyone an email account, they discouraged customers from switching between ISPs whenever a better deal was available.
Testament to the success of that strategy is the number of people who have an ISP-based email address they can’t let go of.
Macworld Australia reader Terry wrote to me recently regarding the challenges he’s faced with Telstra changing its email system from an internally hosted one to Microsoft’s cloud email service.
“I’m annoyed that I ever took up a Bigpond email address. I have many hundreds of contacts around the world, so changing to a different email address would be a massive effort.”
Terry had a number of issues, but it was this comment that caught my attention.
Tying your email service to a specific service provider means you lose your freedom to choose. It’s the equivalent of buying a car and only being able to buy fuel from a specific service station.
So – what can you do about it?
The answer is simple – use an email service that is independent of your ISP.
Options for free email services
The easiest option is to create an account with an independent provider of email services.
The advantage of these services over ISP email is that you can change ISPs without losing your email address.
What about personalised email?
If you’re in business or just want to have your own email address, you can easily register a domain name (like myname.com) and use that.
To do that you’ll need to go through a few different steps.
- Register a domain name using an accredited registrar. I’ve used GoDaddy for the domains I’ve registered, but a simple online search for Australian domain registrars will reveal lots of options. Note: look at the pricing carefully as the prices can vary significantly between registrars offering very similar services.
- Create an account with an email service provider. For example, Google will let you use your own domain with its services. However, that will cost a small amount each month – around $4 per month will give you 30GB of capacity – enough for many years of email.
- Link your domain name to the email account. This may involve some quite technical configuration but my experience is that the email service providers have easy-to-follow instructions that make the process straightforward.
Changing addresses is a pain
There’s no way around this – changing email addresses can be a pain.
My advice is to do a few things.
- Only use your new address for sending new email.
- When you reply to an email sent to your old ISP address, send the reply from your new personalised email account.
- Add a message to the signature on both your old and new email accounts informing people of your new address.
- Send a bulk email (with everyone’s email address in the BCC field) letting everyone know of the change.