back to article Google dumps ISP email support. Virgin Media takes ball, stomps home

Virgin Media plans to shunt its email users over to an in-house system after Google told the cable company that it was ditching Gmail support for ISPs. The Register heard from a number of readers who have been told in recent days about the upcoming changes to the mail service. Virgin Media switched over to Gmail in 2009 and …

  1. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

    Presumably Google cannot....

    Monetize peoples private communications hard enough when they are not signed up to all the other droneware.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Something to be aware of if you use it...

      Something to be aware of if you use Virgin Media email, which isn't mentioned in the article: When the move to the new system takes place, any mail you currently have sorted by labels (or good old fashioned folders in an IMAP client) is going to have the sorting info stripped and will all be lumped together into your Inbox. Good luck with that one!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Something to be aware of if you use it...

        " but you can no longer search the text within your emails." Please be aware that this basic functionality has been removed and that Virgin have crippled the service. As usual they have spun this into a massive "improvement" .

        Virgin are essentially dishonest. Remember that Sir Richard Branson started his career trying to defraud the Inland revenue (UK tax) but wriggled out of jail time with LOTS OF MONEY. In the UK this earns you a knighthood.

  2. DLSmith

    Not Just Virgin Media

    MY ISP had switched from in-house email to Gmail hosted email about a year ago. Last month they switched back to their in-house email servers again. I was curious why that happened, now I know.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Not Just Virgin Media

      It's not just ISPs which have moved their mail systems to Google en-masse.

      Universities and schools have also done this ("it's free!") - either to Gmail or Outlook.

      Now that Google are dropping ISPs, I'd take bets that they'll do the same for academic stuff, with Microsoft deciding they can't monetise this for "free" either at about the same time (or shortly afterwards).

      One might ask how many have exit and contingency plans laid out, but the lack of answers would probably be disturbing.

  3. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    who cares

    It's not the 1990s any more - do people really expect an email account from their ISP these days?

    1. Archaon

      Re: who cares

      I care because I use my ISP email account, and have done for over a decade. I doubt that I'm particularly unusual in that respect.

      Having a ISP email is not critical by any means - and yes I know many people who just use the likes of Google Mail or Hotmail (Outlook.com) exclusively and are just fine with that. But just because you can get a free (or chargeable) one from various places online why wouldn't you expect your ISP to provide one or more email accounts for their customers?

      Besides, you could do that in the 1990's as well if you wanted to, it's hardly a new thing - my Hotmail account certainly predates this century.

      Many ISPs will automatically give you an email address (or have you create one) when you sign up anyway, whether you use it or not is up to you.

    2. captain veg

      Re: who cares

      I rather think that ISPs offered email accounts not because of any customer expectation, but because it was good advertising for them to have their name in subscribers' addresses.

      -A.

    3. Velv Silver badge

      Re: who cares

      An email service actually consists of two components:

      o An address at which people can contact you; and

      o infrastructure to move messages around and hold them, store and forward, that's how a (e)mail service works.

      I maintain my own domain name, so my email address never changes. But I don't want to set up mail servers to do the infrastructure piece, so I've got to "buy" that service from somebody. Might as well be my ISP in my monthly subscription.

      1. Jagged

        Re: who cares

        same here

        1. Jagged
          Unhappy

          Re: who cares

          Now they have swapped over, it turns out that I DO CARE because they don't support "SEND AS".

          To send mail using another email address you have to add an email account and provide sign in data. NO F WAY.

      2. John Tserkezis

        Re: who cares

        "I maintain my own domain name, so my email address never changes. But I don't want to set up mail servers to do the infrastructure piece, so I've got to "buy" that service from somebody. Might as well be my ISP in my monthly subscription."

        My domain handler offers email as a paid option, so I don't have to use my primary ISP email at all.

        Unfortunately, part of the setup requires another email address as a point of contact (not the one you just created). That might sound acceptable, especially if your domain needs to contact you when your email option has fallen over, however, this requires you to either choose an ISP who offers email, or, create your own account via a third party - which is just stupid, because you just did that.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: who cares

      I don't mind so much about the e-mail now, but it would be nice to have Usenet and a web space with a domain with your broadband.

      Jumpers for goalposts, Demon Internet (see icon), those were the days, eh?

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: who cares

      No people expect to get it from Google! Oh wait...

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: who cares

      I used to work in the ISP industry and they really didn't want to be in the business of running an email service, but they had to because they always have. If you have customers using your email service, you'll never be able to get rid of it (no matter how bad the service, many, many existing customers really do rely on it). And if you're running several million mailboxes, you "may as well" continue to offer it - although these days it tends to be a feature you have to enable.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: who cares

        "I used to work in the ISP industry and they really didn't want to be in the business of running an email service"

        When I started in the "industry", email was the primary focus with Usenet demand almost as strong. Everything else came later.

        Usenet died a death of spam a long time ago. Email is still with us and is still useful but you get what you pay for and if it's "free" you're not in a good position to grumble if it's withdrawn.

    7. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: who cares

      "Do people really expect an email account from their ISP "

      Yes, and ISPs actively promote the things as it's an effective handbrake on a user taking their business somewhere else.

    8. PeterM42
      Facepalm

      Re: who cares

      The problems with getting your email hosted by your ISP become obvious when you change ISP!

      What are your (free) alternatives? Crapoutlook? (AKA coldmail & dead.co.uk) GodMail?

  4. Archaon

    So...

    ...a little while after they moved to Google Mail it became a complete pig to use my Virgin account for anything Google related - namely my YouTube login for subscriptions and whatnot. Logging into YouTube or anything else Google related using my Virgin email address resulted in a highly convoluted - and broken as far as I could tell - process to somehow link the two. Without doing that it effectively stopped you logging in to any Google service with an existing Google account based on a Virgin email address.

    End result was giving up and migrating all my subscriptions, settings etc from my Google account registered to my Virgin email, to my actual Google Mail account. Not the end of the world but a ballache.

    Thanks Virgin/Google. There's nothing better than when giant companies make U-turns that waste my time. Much love.

  5. Tubz

    Good, no more reading of my emails by Google. Could never get a satisfactory answer for VM if Google did this, just the usual muppets spewing PR BS !

    1. Woodnag

      Maybe

      Except for emails to/from someone with a gmail a/c.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Unless you use PGP just about every spook on the planet has read your email.

  6. Boothy

    ISP email!

    I haven't used an ISP email address since my early days on dial-up!

    I quickly switched to Hotmail (before MS took over), as after switching ISPs about 2-3 times, I realised having an ISP email address was a pain in the a$$.

    It must be a real nightmare these days to switch ISP if you use their provided email address, with the number of web sites insisting on using email addresses as the 'Username'!

    I've used a mix of web based email, and my own domains since then.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: ISP email!

      I run my own email server. a Fit-PC, Windows 7 and VPOP3. It sits quietly on a shelf in my study pretty much doing it's thing without involving me. In truth it seems to spend most of its time telling spotty hacker oiks to bugger off. Legitimate email traffic is pretty rare in comparison to the flood of failed log on attempts and bounced emails.

    2. John Lilburne Silver badge

      Re: ISP email!

      Would I use gmail - nope too much snoopage. A yahoo account for yahoo groups, a hotmail account for trolling MS, hell I even have an grandfathered netscape.net addy for USENET trolling. Oh and a handful of other yahoo accounts for nefarious purposes. But a Google account never.

      There is certainly a gotcha with an ISP email address. I have a demon account with unlimited email addresses but I'm currently migrating to use one of my own domains which similarly has unlimited addresses.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ISP email!

      "It must be a real nightmare these days to switch ISP if you use their provided email address, with the number of web sites insisting on using email addresses as the 'Username'!"

      I've been trying to get my sister to ditch BT as ISP for years (appalling connection and poor response), but the email address is what keeps her with them as its now been in use for 15 years or so, and she can't even take a stab at how many sites use it as a logon. The other reason she wants to keep the address is because it has her name on it, even though I've offered to sort out a domain of her choice that would offer the same with more flexibility to move.

      She's clearly not the only one, so the hassle obviously pays dividends for ISPs in 'stickiness', which is exactly the reason I haven't used one since the days of Demon; having moved ISPs/countries a few times it would have been a nightmare.

      I used the allocated email with an ISP in India to communicate (bit of a euphemism) with them because they insisted on it for 'verification' purposes. One day a mail hits the inbox addressed to 'allusers@thestateisp.in' with just the message "If this works, boy are we in for a rough time". We were.

      1. David Roberts Silver badge

        Re: ISP email!

        Just to note thst I moved away fron BT as as ISP many years ago, but I have retained my BT email addresses for a small monthly payment.

        I don't know if this is still offered as an option.

  7. arnieL

    Round we go...

    In the time I've been with BLueyonder/Teleworst/Virgin/whoever, they have gone from one broken email setup to another (UNIX, Exchange, Gmail etc.) with the answer being a Zoho accounts and my own domain.

  8. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    Good Luck

    "“This is an in-house platform built in conjunction with our parent company Liberty Global, utilising several specialist third parties to deliver various elements of the solution," "

    It's that second bit that could be fun.

  9. Ben Rose
    Megaphone

    Just do broadband properly

    Never mind email, which is optional, I just wish my VM cable connection would work as advertised. For the last month or so I have been getting circa 20 meg from my 152meg connection, with VM claiming capacity issues as the cause - although the problems appeared to happen overnight.

    Nothing on the service status page, as usual, you have to call to confirm the issue.

    In the interests of balance, I should point out that VM have offered me some compensation - but only for their own service, not the other services like Napster/Netflix etc. that are continually failing due to lack of bandwidth. I'm also unable to work from home effectively as the VPN connection is restrictively slow.

    I can get email from anywhere, but not without a reliable connection. That's what we pay you for at the end of the day.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Just do broadband properly

      20Mb should make for a reasonable VPN, would easily handle a citrix or RDP client or two.

      But I don't think Virgin cable home broadband claim to be a business service. The contractors in the office here usually pay for a business broadband connection and another ADSL for backup.

      1. Ben Rose
        Megaphone

        Re: Just do broadband properly

        Sure, but being able to use home streaming service might be nice...I signed up to 152meg for a reason, not because I wanted 20 - like being back in 2005.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just do broadband properly

          I just binned an advert from VM stating that 152meg was available down my street.

          What a load of dog pooh.

          The poor old Copper Coax that was put in the ground 20 years ago can't cope with almost everyone in the street using it.

          Next door are lucky to get 5Mb between 3pm and midnight. VM Customer service don't give a damm.

          I do not and will never ever sign up to VM. I only wish that they (VM) would stop sending me crap that goes straight into the recycling.

          The FTTC connection I use gets around 49meg down all day, every day.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Just do broadband properly

            "The FTTC connection I use gets around 49meg down all day, every day."

            My VM 100Mb/s connection maxes out at about 85Mb/s but that's most likely down to the mix of old kit on my side of the cable modem being pretty much all 100Mb rather than Gb, inctuding the firewall and primary switch :-)

            Most of the people I know around the UK on VM rarely have problems. Those that do seem to be in the areas where the original cable franchise were the first to roll out or are high density/take up areas. I switched to telewest as soon as super-duper-ultra-fast 512kb/s broadband was launched here and have never looked back. BT only quite recently have offered as much as 25Mb/s locally but my VM connection has been at 60,recently upgraded to 100 for free for a good long while now. IIRC I paid to upgrade to 1Mb/s a while after that launched and the early adopter price had dropped a bit, but all other speed upgrades have been free/automatic to the current 100Mb/s I have (usual inflationary price increases notwithstanding). The 152Mb/s service is available but I can't see a justification for the premium rental and the upgrades I'll have to put in place on my own network.

  10. Mark Fenton

    Hold on...passwords remain the same?

    Surely this means that the passwords are stored and not hashed?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hold on...passwords remain the same?

      You don't think they could use the same hash algorithm and arrange for Google to transfer the hash/salt values as part of the migration?

      1. Velv Silver badge

        Re: Hold on...passwords remain the same?

        "You don't think they could use the same hash algorithm and arrange for Google to transfer the hash/salt values as part of the migration?"

        They could.

        They don't.

        See above.

        And since Virgin manage the password before its forwarded to gmail, they already have a copy to authenticate against on their new service, so of course it's not going to change.

        1. MattPi

          Re: Hold on...passwords remain the same?

          "And since Virgin manage the password before its forwarded to gmail, they already have a copy to authenticate against on their new service, so of course it's not going to change."

          As a side note, it's entirely possible that the password isn't forwarded to Gmail. Instead, Gmail could query VM's directory service (or just Kerberos for yea/nea) to make sure logins are valid. Single-sign-on: we've heard of it.

    2. Mark Allen

      Re: Hold on...passwords remain the same?

      Yeah, there is a big room at Google HQ with all the user passwords on separate post-it notes attached to the wall. It is their backup system for when people forget passwords.

    3. Velv Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Hold on...passwords remain the same?

      This has been posted upon many times, yes, Virgin Media store your password in such a way that it can be supplied in normal form (I don't know if they store it "encrypted", but I have written proof they can decrypt and send it in a letter, so it's definitely not hashed).

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Hold on...passwords remain the same?

      "passwords are stored and not hashed?"

      Never heard of LDAP?

  11. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    BWAHAHAHAHA....

    Welcome to the brave new world, which is the good old world.

    Bait. Switch. Embrace. Extend. Destroy.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: BWAHAHAHAHA....

      No, that was the old days when they switched from their unix mail system to an MS Exchange system at the behest of the two MS board members foisted on them when MS invested. Once they left, along with the MS investment, they were free to change. That's when Google cam in.

      The Exchange days were the "fun" times when you got an email every month or so to say the "Exchange store holding blahbale@blueyonder.co.uk would be down for "planned maintenance" for up to 24 hours as they cycled through each server, taking it offline, sorting out the crufty databases and bringing it back up again ready for the next cycle.

      The Google outsourceing has been fine from my point of view in that I don't use ISP mail much and use POP3/SMTP, not webmail (other than to log in once to tuen off all filtering) and never used the virgin/google email as a google sign-in for anything googly. Their recent email does warn users who do use their VM/google mail for Hangouts etc will lose that function.

  12. Jagged

    Can't wait

    As a long time customer (from Telewest Blueyonder days) I can't wait. The service was better before google and has been a pain since google took over. The sooner the better as far as I am concerned.

    1. Mike Flex

      Re: Can't wait

      "The service was better before google and has been a pain since google took over."

      Indeed, but this talk of integrating third party email solutions suggests we're not getting Blueyonder email back.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Can't wait

        "Indeed, but this talk of integrating third party email solutions suggests we're not getting Blueyonder email back."

        From the sound of it, the primary infrastructure is something Liberty Global already use with bolt-on 3rd part spam filtering/webmail front end.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Can't wait

      "I can't wait."

      Just because you think the new service can't be any worse than it is now, doesn't mean that it won't be.

  13. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    All I think

    they are doing is digging out the old e.mail server code from before they used google and giving its a quick zap and get it going again.

    I'm a long time NTL/virgin/liberty/next buyer sufferer

    Oh and my yahoo mail accounts are the throw away ones, while the ntl one remains a private one.

  14. Old Handle

    Who designs this crap?

    They claim the new layout is "simple" but at the same time it requires a cutting edge browser. Ugh! Web mail interfaces are some of the worst web sites I've ever had the misfortune to use. At least gmail is actually able to fall back on a simple, usable interface when confronted with an older browser.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Who designs this crap?

      "At least gmail is actually able to fall back on a simple, usable interface when confronted with an older browser."

      gmail supports IMAP. Only a masochist uses a web browser to read mail.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Who designs this crap?

      "They claim the new layout is "simple" but at the same time it requires a cutting edge browser"

      That may be just their way of saying "don't use old browsers out of support and likely full of security holes, use a new one with modern encryption standards support". I noticed BBC iPlayer says you need Windows 7 now. Except iPlayer still works with Windows XP. It's just not supported or recommended.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So Virgin trusted their email to the cloud

    and all Virgin got from the provider eventually was

    "Fooled you, bye, better luck with your next provider."

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Conrad Longmore

    Passwords in plaintext

    The pre-Google version was so bad that you could find the email password stored in plaintext in the browser cache, so if anyone had access to the files on your computer then they could easily determine the webmail password with no additional tools needed. Classy.

  18. Richard Cranium

    Virgin were locked in to an ancient version of Gmail (e.g. no 2 factor security option)

    In any case ISP email has always been garbage. ISPs have to offer it as part of the deal, it costs them to do so. It results in a lot of ongoing end-user support costs with just a small benefit from the inherent "lock-in" and the customers email address "advertising" the ISP.

    Were I running an ISP next time they're looking at hiking the monthly charge offer a "no frills" discount and gradually ease out of the free email (and some other add-ons) commitment. Similarly many ISPs provide some free web space and cloud storage - why bother to provide it? and as a customer why would you choose the potential lock-in and a (usually) inferior service.

    As for other gripes here about Virgin broadband speed - no problem here I'm on the over 20 year old coax shared with half the street, I just ran a speed test 117Mb/sec download (upload 8Mb/sec, may sound a bit slow but I don't upload a lot)

  19. David Roberts Silver badge

    Web mail

    To follow up some of the comments on web mail interfaces:

    I have three main email providers; BT via Yahoo, Virgin and Gmail (Don't use my Hotmail accounts much).

    The BT Yahoo web interface is the only one I find really easy to use.

    My main use is to sort through the spam folder and educate the SPAM filter.

    BT seems to be the only one which allows me to sort by originator which makes finding false positives much faster and easier.

    Also good for locating mail in my inbox the spam filter has missed if there is a sudden upturn in spam picked up by my mail client (POP3 or IMAP).

    I would just use IMAP if there was a way for the client to educate the server side spam filter.

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