12/28/2021, 10:32:21 PM
Every once in awhile a couple articles here and there make the rounds of social media about why one shouldn't use X email provider, whether that be Gmail, Outlook, or any other myriad of online services offering a virtual mailbox in exchange for a) your hard-earned money, or b) your personal information, please and thank you.
More often, you read horror stories about how someone lost access to their email – and by extension, access to a great many other online services that happen to use email as the fallback mechanism.
I'm old enough to remember when email inboxes were something ISPs provided (and as of today, they still do, if you ask for it), with miniscule quotas compared to what you can get today. I remember when Gmail launched and was invite-only, too. My first email provider was probably Yahoo! Mail, which hosted email with an ample storage quota of 2 megabytes, whoo! 🚀
Up until last year I was happily using Gmail as my email provider. They provided a crazy high amount of storage space, and I had no real complaints.
By using Gmail, my email address was routed via the
gmail.com domain, and access to the emails on Google's servers was via their web portal (or local sync via POP/IMAP.)
This created a single point of failure. If Gmail were ever hacked, shutdown, or if my access were ever revoked for breach of service, I would lose complete access to my historical emails and deliverability/receipt of all future emails.
By buying a vanity domain and using Fastmail as my email backend, I am able to split these responsibilities. If my access to Fastmail is revoked (or god forbid, they shut down), I can switch to another email provider and update my DNS records accordingly. If my domain is stolen or I decide to stop paying for it, then I will still have historical access to my old emails.
Do you remember all the great articles about Google providing support? I sure don't — it's because you can't easily get in touch with a human being to fix your issues. The same goes for lots of big companies... Uber, AirBnb, Amazon, you name it. Trying to find help via their customer support portal is an exercise in frustration.
I don't blame them, if they did have live chat or a phone number, they'd probably be absolutely inundated with inane support requests from all four corners of the globe.
They counter this by having self-help tools and an online community so you can get help from others (if you're lucky, someone from X support will swing by and help you too!)
But on the off chance when you do need help, none can be found quickly or easily.
I moved over to Fastmail because if I need assistance, I can reach someone very quickly.
Are you tired of being xXxHeavenlyBuBbLeSxXx@hotmail.com, or email@example.com? With your own vanity domain, you can be firstname.lastname@example.org! How great is that!
It's super simple to set up Fastmail to automatically route mail to various subdomains to your main inbox (e.g.
jsmith@storeA.example.org). I used to use the
username+suffix trick when entering my email into forms, but some companies are wise to this and look for the
+. A subdomain email is always considered a valid email.
Proactively using a subdomain email allows you to easily see if your email gets added to a spammer's mailing list, and who the culprit is.
The first step is buying your own vanity domain. I ended up using Google Domain1, but I have also heard good things about Gandi. Buying devnull.land meant I also had a nice web space for a blog too, if I wanted.
For DNS, I ended up using CloudFlare, but you can use the DNS provided by your domain registrar as well.
Then you can set up Fastmail and add the appropriate DNS records so incoming emails are handled by Fastmail. Don't forget to set up DKIM and SPF records as well, so your outgoing emails are not blocked, and you can start building reputation.
The hard part here is that nobody knows your new email address. You'll want to automatically forward all of your emails from Gmail to Fastmail, and update and change email address on your various services to your new email.
In Gmail, I set up a forwarding address, to go to a subdomain email. My personal emails go to
@personal.devnull.land, and my work emails go to
On the Fastmail side, I set up a filtering rule so that all emails received to those subdomain emails route to a separate folder.
Watch out for certain top level domains. Some of the cheaper domains are used by spammers, and many providers just straight-up block the entire TLD.
.xyz is considered to be no good as an email domain, for the above reason.
1 Yeah yeah, I'm not anti-google, but I do realize that were access to my Google account revoked, this would extend to my domain name as well, so it would be in my best interest to migrate to a different domain name provider.