Email was not supposed to be how it is today. Not at all. Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook/Hotmail, AOL, iCloud; just a few companies control so much of the worlds communications by email.
In an ideal world, we’d all have our own email servers, or maybe our family would. We’d all have nice email addresses that don’t end in the same old @gmail.com or @outlook.com. They’d be short, personalised, and recognisable; at our own domain.
Each institution, whether that be schools, employers, governments, or who/whatever else would have their own email server, running on open-source, secure software, and not just sign up to a service like Office 365 or gSuite, with a domain registered with Google or GoDaddy.
But instead, we have big companies who scan through billions of terabytes of email and display personalised advertisements, often through the poor quality webmail clients they require you to use.
Even those of us who run our own servers, manage our own inboxes, use our favourite open-source clients are subjected to Gmail and big email companies. Our friends, family, and colleges use Gmail, and Outlook, and Yahoo, so inevitably our emails end up of their servers anyway. I found this amazing blog post on this very issue; I recommend you take a look.
Personally, I am forced to use Outlook. My school uses Office 365, meaning that if I want to communicate with staff, I get the option of Outlook or Teams. Teams is awful software; I always choose Outlook. I’m fairly certain my school would be mortified if I started emailing staff from firstname.lastname@example.org, or something like that.
But whenever I can, I use my personal email server. Don’t get me wrong, I have a Gmail account. I’ve had a Gmail account since I was 9, and before that an @btinternet.com address since I was 6 (my Dad set it up for me). But, on holiday one year, I bought a Namecheap hosting package and setup the email email@example.com, soon, on the same hosting package, I setup firstname.lastname@example.org, and that’s been my address ever since.
I don’t use Namecheap and cPanel anymore though, I run Dovecot, Postfix, and SpamAssassin off of my Ubuntu 18.04 VPS (virtual private server). I use BIND for DNS and PorkBun is my registrar, the entire config only costs me around £5/month. I actually setup my entire email server using Luke Smith‘s emailwiz script. Luke is an… interesting character, and whilst I don’t agree with quite a few of his opinions, he made a great piece of software.
The reason I keep open my Gmail account is mainly because I sort-of have to. I own a lot, and I mean a lot, of domains, and I register most of them with PorkBun (they’re an amazing registrar, and even sent me a free hoodie), but PorkBun requires that I keep an email address attached to my account… the account that has jacobsammon.com, the domain I use all of my email for, attached to it. You can see the issue here.
My point is, big companies having all of your emails is bad. If you have the technical know-how, configure your own email server. Don’t get an address with ProtonMail or anything like that. Don’t get me wrong, they’re better than Gmail etc, but it’s still a company with all your emails on their server that just promises to respect your privacy, oh, and you pay for ProtonMail too, and far much more than with a basic VPS plan.
If you’re looking for a VPS plan to get started with, take a look at Contabo‘s plans, they’re cheap and work fine – I use them. Linode and Vultr are probably fine too, just check their privacy record before you buy. But don’t use Google Cloud or some big tech company’s VPS service.
The internet was designed to be a place where everyone got there own section, you should support the idea of internet, and not let a few companies run it covered in ads and collecting your data.