Keep your email address for as long as you want
by buying your own domain. It's easier as you can filter stuff you don't want as well.
For nearly 20 years I've paid, monthly, for an email account, but next month the domain shuts down and while I feel I should care it seems email isn't as important as it used to be. Steve Jackson Games was the company I selected for the email account I set up in the early nineties, and since then I've routed every message …
Exactly what I was going to suggest... Domains cost pennies a year, and I use Google Apps (free for less than 5 users) to host the mail, even using calendar and contact syncing to mobile devices. Works great, have now had my e-mail address (through various hosting) for 10+ years!
Take my own arrangements, for instance: when I found that the Spamhaus Zen service was free for anyone making less than 80,000 requests per day, I didn't have to call my hosting company and put in a request and pay somebody to do the work and wait three days for it to be done and so on and so forth with all the other crap; I just logged in as root and told Postfix what I wanted it to do.
The actual capabilities aren't any different; if you know what you're doing, though, administering your own domain and services lets you cut through an incredible amount of tiresome bullshit.
I have an email catchall on my domain which ends up in (these days) a gmail inbox. It's ended up in other places in the past, and to change it's end target is a matter of minutes of work.
I filter by using a unique address for everyone I deal with - eg: email@example.com for my Reg account, then I can block individual addresses which end up on spam lists. It also means that, should my email/password leak via, I dunno, PSN, they don't get an address which will let you log in to anywhere else, even if I do reuse my low-security passwords.
Although with gmail's spam filter as good as it is these days, I barely need the capability. But it's handy nonetheless.
"not sure how having a domain helps you filter."
Plus you can then set up wildcard forwarding and give bespoke addresses each time you're required to give an email address.
So for example I'm signed up here as firstname.lastname@example.org. If I start to receive spam at that address I i) know exactly who has leaked my address; and ii) can cut that address off for good, perhaps forwarding the spam automatically to the relevant miscreants.
> you can then set up wildcard forwarding
Wildcards aren't actually all that great an idea; you end up with an infinite number of valid addresses, some of which will get hit by dictionary attacks.
A better solution, IMO, is to use aliases (/etc/aliases in many cases). This allows you to issue unique addresses that all end up in one box, but anything not explicitly allocated is not live, and mail sent to it will be rejected.
There is a small risk associated with this method. Anyone who manually types in your address, but gets it slightly wrong, will fall victim to the filter. I had this a few years ago where someone I hadn't spoke to in ages sent an e-mail to <firstname><lastname>@<mydomain.dom>. They'd remembered my domain but not the name format, but the message got to my Inbox anyway. Filtering based solely on allocated addresses would have lost that mail.
In my experience allowing all unallocated addresses through, but passing everything through a good Bayesian filter first, has meant very few junk messages have ended up where they shouldn't. On the rare occasion when a handful of spam messages sneak through to the same unallocated address, I just add it to a blacklist.
"E-mail addresses are disposable things these days, no one expects to keep an electronic address any longer than a physical one."
I've had the same email (and web) address for 11 years now and so long as I keep paying the small annual registration fee I expect to continue to have the same email address for the forseeable future.
During that same period of time I've had 5 different ISPs (none of whose email systems I used, they all sucked), 6 different web hosts (including a period of self-hosting) and 3 or 4 email providers. To anyone communicating with me by email or viewing my web site, there's effectively no difference.
"these days most of us rely on Facebook and LinkedIn to keep track of people we met last week, let alone last year."
Perhaps, but the day I have to rely on the likes of Facebook for my electronic communications is the day I start buying postage stamps and envelopes again.
If you don't own the domain, you will only ever get to use it as long as the owners choose to let you.
The closest you can come is buying your own domain and hoping you will always pay the bills on time, that the rules don't suddenly change on you and people with expensive lawyers don't take an interest (remember baa.com?) Some email addresses are more secure than others (I think I will have my @acm.org address for some time as long as I keep paying my dues). Of course very few people thought of all this back in the day when getting their first account. I certainly didn't.
It's a shame, because not all of us want to be permanently tied to bookface or linkedup as our means of being contactable.
"...buying your own domain and hoping you will always pay the bills on time..."
You have to be pretty bloody useless to lose it through not paying. First, if where you have it parked / hosted doesn't provide plenty of advance warning and / or auto-renewal, move to one that does. Second, if you do fuck up, it'll move to a limbo state of retention for some time during which you can still retrieve it. Even after that it's still usually possible to get it back, assuming you didn't pick something so mind-numbingly desirable that it gets snapped up once it's free.
 One of mine did this. The hosting types migrated their dashboard systems and a renewal that had happened, er, didn't. They were terribly apologetic, got it back from retention and gave me a couple of years free. Nice people at UK2. Two cockups in 12 years? I can live with that.
"Now I’ll get a GMail or Hotmail account and hope for the best, or perhaps rely on never-ending employment with El Reg for my mailbox."
You must surely know that you can register your own domain, and thus keep the same email address regardless of what ISP or mail provider you happen to be using, via forwarding. You can't possibly not know that. But you sure talk as if you don't in the article?!? Feigned ignorance for effect?
The only reason not to do that would be cost, but you'd have to be a real tight-arse, and since you've been paying for your io.com address for twenty years, I'd have thought that wasn't an issue. You might not be able to get a two-letter domain, but you're bound to be able to get something more memorable than a generic googlemail etc address, so it can't be lack of available domains.
Not only could I get my own domain, but PrismNet has offered all io.com users free registration and DNS hosting for 12 months.
But I don't want a domain. It's certainly a lot easier now than it was 20 years ago, and I've had several over the years (network23.co.uk being my most recent holding) but they've always ended up being more effort than they were worth: I guess I'm just not very good at looking after them.
It's also too late, this time around, but perhaps I'll give it another go given the overwhelming support for the idea amongst El Reg readers.
Bill, I have to say this makes me fear a little for your safety as an El Reg hack. I own half a dozen email addresses, not because I have some fetish or because it is my profession (it isn't) but because I didn't want to be dependent on anyone else for the long term.
Using Google Apps couldn't be simpler or there are other options as you have mentioned. I have many of my domains registered with Easyspace and I don't even us them for DNS hosting itself because I wanted to use someone else. Easyspace are good because when you don't renew they call you, twice, before expiring the domain to remind you. I thought this was excellent service from them, I was managing a domain for someone else and have been waiting for them to do something.
If you've lost a domain then you are using the wrong registrar. If you've lost email then you're using the wrong service provider. OK, it is a little more work, but only about two days every two years.
So we are supposed to believe this guy is some sort of technology hack, but doesn't understand the concept of buying your own domain ? OK, so 20 years ago owning your own domain wasn't that easy or common, but these days, they cost so little, and it's so easy, there really isn't any excuse not to.
It makes me both laugh and cry when I see companies (some of them not so small) with a proper web address, but still using a providers email address. It's laughable, but I'm also angry that someone has conned them and when they find out it'll be the whole "IT Industry" that's to blame.
My hotmail is my full name and initials, chock full of underscores, and almost embarrassing in this day and age. However, I can't tear myself away from it after having it 15-ish years. (I don't think it was even MS when I set it up!) I'm a real data hoarder, so having such a massive history of emails, all neatly arranged and available over IMAP is hard to let go.
I have a really funky short one on my own name domain, but never got around to actually using it properly.
... but not twice shy?
Instead of just relying on another 3rd party to run a domain buy your own! Use Google Apps, rent a VPS, pay 1and1, whoever to host the service, you can always change hosting but the domain and address will always be yours so long as you remember to renew the registration...
I'm luckier than you and have a rare surname, I own the .com, co.uk and .net and it's not big money to keep these going. So long as nobody with my name ever becomes rich and famous enough to get big lawyers on me then I'm fine... and I think that's pretty unlikely.
Another bit of games nerdery bites the dust. Just even reading about Steve Jackson Games has made me feel young again. Now I'm tempted to dig out the cardboard box that still holds my precious 'Car Wars' collection and have a quiet cry over the ads in the back issues of 'The Space Gamer'.
I guess the value of a two-letter domain trumped the fun of it being 'Illuminati Online'.
Buying your own domain does give you a bit of permanence, but do beware of the lawyers (see Warner Brothers and Harry Potter domains) and the idiots (see BlueYonder.com).
I'll sneak the word 'fnord' into something in memorial of io.com and all it represented.
Did you do no research?
SJG was at the time, an RPG Company. Illuminati was more of a boardless board game
I despair of the lack of geekiness on an article about SJG and IO.com
And to be ignorant of the SJG vs the FBI to such a degree, in a tech journalist who used io.com
Nice to be called a journalist, I never get bored of that, but I did do some basic checking:
Neither Illuminati, Car Wars, nor Orge are roleplaying games, that only came with Gurps and I never really liked Gurps (though I admit to buying Gurps Car Wars out of curiosity).
Regarding the FBI connection I'll have to point you to SJG's version of events, which makes it clear that the FBI was not involved: http://www.sjgames.com/SS/
But we shouldn't forget that where the Illuminati are involved nothing should be taken at face value, and you'll notice my post here lacks the vulture logo that usually accompanies staff postings.
Another useful way to use Google Apps / your own domain for filtering is to use aliases to track where your e-mail address is passed around e.g. my e-mail address is email@example.com, but you can register accounts against firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and when those addresses fill up with spam you can
a) see where they got your address from and crucify that site
b) block the alias without losing e-mails from real people or from other sites that haven't displeased you by selling on your details.
Tried the "plus" addressing thing. Great in principle, too bad the majority of websites (that I've tried it with) don't seem to think that "+" is a valid character in an email address. I came up against this so often that I don't even bother trying any more.
Icon for the stupid websites, not the principle.
That's absolutely essential if you have a commercial website of any description, because otherwise the name owners have you over a barrel any time they feel like it.
But I use yahoo webmail, because:
1. I don't want to run SMTP and POP3 software on my server - both are insecure.
2. With webmail, all your e-mail archives are in the cloud. You don't have to worry about backing them up, and they're accessible from anywhere. And storage is effectively unlimited.
3. Likewise your contacts.
4. Because your contacts aren't stored locally, you're protected from viral-emails (until somebody finds a way to do this with webmail)
5. If I don't have enough money to renew my domain and hosting this year, I'll still keep the same e-mail address. I guess if yahoo goes tits-up, someone else will take over the domain name.
...if you want a simple solution and don't mind paying $20/year. I have had an account with them since 1996, when my mail was forwarded to a Pipex dialup account. I still forward it to my local ISP, although you can pay them more for pop3/imap/webmail.
The pobox.com bit has been more reliable than any of the backends I've forwarded to, and in emergency it's easy to go into their website and redirect your mail to another address.
I've been a pobox.com subscriber for almost as long, and it's never had a single hiccup. They have outstanding filtering too, you can individually subscribe to a bunch of blocklists, set up your spam to bitbucket or go into a holding pen (for each blocklist selection), and they'll mark in the forwarded headers which blocklists weighed in on the decision to forward the mail or not.
Between pobox filters and gmail (where my pobox mail goes most of the time, though nobody knows it), I get about 2 spams in my inbox a year, out of tens of thousands intercepted. Great service.
The other guys are right, register your own domain name. You could even set up your own mail server and manage it. It isn't terribly difficult and avoids the problem you ran into, losing your email address.
Well... that's almost true. In the early days of the internet backin the mid 90's, I loaned the use of one of my domain names to my political party for the duration of an election. By way of thanking me for my generous contribution, they petitioned the registrar and walked away with my domain name. They continue to use it to this day. I am no longer a member.
No good deed ever goes unpunished, especially when dealing with politicians.
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