Why (and how) I left Gmail

After reading Luis Villa’s concerns about how little Google values our privacy, I decided leaving Google services as well. In fact, I already left Gmail 1.5 year ago, not (only) because of privacy concerns, but because I was simply not satisfied with its IMAP support.

Call me old fashioned if you will, but I want an offline cache of my email. IMAP is of course the best protocol for that, but Google doesn’t support IMAP very well. They use folders as an offline implementation of their tagging feature, instead of actually using IMAP tags. This means downloading messages multiple times, which is not funny at all. And then, there is Philip Van Hoof saying [Google’s] IMAP server is probably one of the poorest imaginable. (Edit: See also this rant by Opera Software’s lead QA for Opera Mail.)

I don’t feel like running my own email server, either on my computer or in the cloud, so I went with FastMail. Their email solution is not free of cost, unless you keep very little email, but I find their price and service fair enough. I think that the only catch is, I didn’t go for the most expensive plan, so I can’t keep arbitrarily large attachments from many years ago. That’s OK for me. I download the important attachments to my hard drive and use a proper backup instead; and I can still keep the respective email messages.

I still have my Gmail account, which redirects to the FastMail one. I just don’t give my Gmail address to anyone these days, and I don’t use their SMTP server any more. I miss the conversation view, but I found out I can live without it. I reimplemented Gmail’s archive with an “Archive” folder inside Inbox, but latter it grew too big and I split it in one folder for each year.

I gave up most of my tags during the migration, because I didn’t really use them to search the email archive. For the remaining tags, I used the extended tagging feature of IMAP. I have less then 5 tags, so I could use the standard ones, but Evolution and Thunderbird have the same default names for these 5 tags, so I decided to just not change them. FastMail doesn’t really provide a way for me to set or see tags in their web interface, but that’s OK for me, because I use primarily Evolution to check and manage my email. The important thing is that FastMail doesn’t brake my tags. Sadly, OfflineIMAP doens’t implement these arbitrary tags yet, so I can’t use it to relay my email.

I’d love to know about other email solutions. I’m not really considering a move any time soon, but the discussion could be very interesting for current Gmail users.

Update: My username at FastMail.fm is leonardof. If you subscribe to the service, please inform me as the referer. Not that I’ll receive much for it, but that’s an interesting way to know if people are actually using FastMail.

13 respostas em “Why (and how) I left Gmail

  1. Thunderbird 3 has an implementation of the Gmail archive tool that works pretty much just how you described, as well as an indexed local search tool that’s decently fast. As a whole, it’s still not quite as nice as Gmail, though. 😦

    • Luca, I just don’t remember where, but Gmail does (or did) have a forwarding feature.

      Edit: The initial import was not done with a redirect from Gmail; it was made from the FastMail side, using Google’s IMAP. I used the folders to help applying the tags, and latter merged folders and removed duplicate emails.

  2. I’ve been using FastMail for years, redirecting my @gnome.org account to it. A good IMAP server is just a must for me, and I’ve had no problems at all with FastMail. I don’t mind paying for good service.

    Their web interface is also nice to have. I almost always use a local client, but occasionally it’s nice to have a web interface available (e.g. quick stop at an Internet cafe). The web interface actually plays nicely with IMAP. Plus, you can set up server-side filters through the web interface.

    GMail is doing a lot of things differently, and I respect that they’re trying to innovate. I know there’s a lot of people who love it. But for old-school IMAP junkies like me, you can’t beat FastMail.

  3. it would be worth to give a look at lavabit.com : Our team of programmers answered with a system so secure that even our administrators can’t read your e-mail. With more than 165,000 users already, it won’t be long before the name you always wanted is already taken.

    I’m using the free version and it’s still very valuable!

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  5. Interesting.
    I’ve tried various versions of Thunderbird, Evolution, and even multiple mail clients on my Droid.
    No conversation mode, no way. I hate web apps, wasting all those CPU cycles, requiring a browser, not natively themed…

    ..but conversations is the #0 feature I look for in a client.

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  10. I just setup my own postfix server. I was loving gmail, but then the latest Buzz debacle opened my eyes. Google is not the pretty face they represent. If you value privacy you’ll switch off gmail too. There can be no revolution as long as they control the information.

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