Goodbye, Gmail

Like many of you, I’ve been a loyal user of Gmail for many years now.  When it first came out, Google’s web-based email service left all the others behind.  It was very fast and we loved it.

But I’ve decided to drop Gmail for several reasons and move on, and here are the three that have spurred me to make the decision to end 2012 by abandoning Gmail.

First, I hate the fact that Gmail by default shows us our emails in descending order by date.  If you receive many emails every day, the newest ones are displayed prominently and the oldest ones float down to the bottom of the list.  And you can’t change this, at least not in any way I could find.  Which means that you wind up reading your newest emails and answering them before you get to the bottom of the pile.  This is what we call ‘last in, first out’ and it is very bad practice.  It’s far better to answer your oldest emails first – which you can do in Gmail, but it’s not easy.

Second, I’ve never liked the way Gmail threads discussions, because it sometimes means that I miss messages or don’t answer messages if several people reply to something I wrote and it all has the same subject line.  I prefer the old fashioned way of showing individual emails.

Finally, I’m concerned about Google’s privacy policy.  When you use a free service like Gmail, you are the product – not the client.  The client is the company buying advertising, and to fund Gmail, Google’s computers read your email messages and serve you up advertisements that they calculate will interest you.  Of course there is no one sitting there at Google individually reading through your emails — but that’s not the point.

So I’ve been looking around for an alternative and for a while actually considered using Microsoft’s new, which has replaced Hotmail. It’s good but not good enough, and anyway, who wants to use a Microsoft product again?

So instead I’ve gone back to one of the pioneers of web-based email, Fastmail, which is now owned by Opera.  Several years ago I was a Fastmail customer because it offered exactly that – very fast email.  (It still does, even with its new, more modern interface.)

Today I’ve come back to Fastmail because it allows me to sort messages as I want to  (by date, with the oldest ones on top); it allows me to see my messages as individual ones, not in threads; and as a paying customer (and not a product) I’m not shown invasive advertising that raises concerns about my privacy.

I found the process of importing all my messages from Gmail to be a relatively simple one (though it took several hours, as I had many thousands of messages to import) and when I did turn to Fastmail‘s tech support on two occasions, I got quick and accurate responses from them.

On my Android phone, I had been using the web browser to access my emails, but have just started using K-9 Mail instead and it seems quite good for this purpose.  (K-9 Mail is a free app, available on Google Play.)

So far I’m pleased with Fastmail and encourage others to check it out.