Like many of the Technorati, I have more than one e-mail address. Several, in fact. On the personal side, I have an address with my home ISP (insightbb), a work address with my employer, another address with the client with whom I am currently working on a long-term project.
Out in the virtual world, I have two more addresses for my alter ego; one with Hotmail, and one with Google Mail (Gmail). The last one is the most recent addition, coming into being just over a year ago, when I received an invitation to the then-Beta Gmail a couple of years ago. Since then I have been using it sparingly.
However, recently, I have had reason to take a long, hard look at the various e-mail accounts and compare them.
My personal ISP address is worse than useless; their ability to keep spam out of my inbox is highly suspect. I don’t know how many they keep out, but the other day I had to remove at least a dozen identical spam messages. I don’t know what they are doing to keep spam out; I suspect nothing.
The client and employer addresses are too ephemeral, too subject to change. And the employers are another one who seem unable to stop spam.
Hotmail does a decent job of keeping out undesirable stuff, but some stuff does get through. Ironically the worst spammer on Hotmail is… Microsoft. Not a week goes by when I don’t get some “helpful” e-mail from Gates & Co exhorting me to use X-and-Y new feature, or trying to interest me in their latest flavour-of-the-month offering. And you can’s unsubscribe from those e-mails. When you try, Microsoft insouciantly tells you that the only way to prevent from receiving them is to cancel your Hotmail Account (bloody cheek!). Still, I suppose that’s why they paid $600M+ For Hotmail back in the day. The nice thing about Hotmail is that you can access it from anywhere, but they no longer allow POP (the technology that allows you to download your messages to program like Outlook Express), unless you are a paying Customer.
Like Hotmail, Gmail is web-based, but there the similarities end. Gmail has a revolutionary way of listing your messages; they show them as “conversations”, so an exchange of e-mails are displayed as a conversation thread. Those who have used Usenet Newsgroups or discussion Forums (Fora?) – will be familiar with this.
Gmail was the first e-mail provider to break the 1GB barrier – the others have been playing catch-up ever since – which means that Gmail has become an unofficial backup mechanism. Want a file backed up? Just e-mail it as an attachment to your Gmail account; problem solved. They also support POP – downloading your Gmail to a PDA over wireless internet is way cool – and you can decide whether you want to “copy” messages (leave them in Gmail) or “move” them (and remove them from your Gmail account).
Where Gmail truly hits a home run is with Spam handling. Simply speaking, there isn’t any. I don’t know how they do it, but after over a year of use I have yet to see a spam message in my Gmail inbox.
The only thing that keeps me from adopting Gmail for everything is inertia. However, over the next few months and years I can see myself using it more and more.
Now Reading: Thud, by Terry Pratchett