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How to get rid of Google in your life - The GMail case

In this first series of posts, I will write about finding alternatives to Google's GMail. At one point, I had more than twelve email addresses, all from free providers (what you would not do as a teen to draw attention! =), and ended up abandoning most of them.

Chances are, if you read this, that you already have a GMail account set up as your primary email address. If I ask the "why?" question, the answer may range from "Because everybody has one" to "It looks good and clean" (I do agree on that one), via "It looks more professional". If hundreds of people are jumping down the bridge, would you follow them or try to understand what is going on first?


First, let's dispel a common misconception about professionalism. No, having an @gmail.com address does not make you look more professional. I guess it was somewhat of a "status symbol" back then, showing how connected you were, when it was only available by invitation. Many years have passed since that time, and anybody can get a GMail address now.

Looking professional when you make a first contact through email goes deeper than the mere domain name attached to your address, but let's start with that one first. The most professional address you can use is your university or college address, or your employer-issued address. If you are not yet employed, or rather not use such an address to avoid any suspicion of conflict of interests, or simply not in a university, at least make sure your name does not look like brown_babe34@anydomain.com. It doesn't look more professional to give brown_babe34@gmail.com than it is to have brown_babe34@hotmail.com. It does, however, to give ghita.charara@queenu.edu.

Problem is, many universities give a ridiculously low amount of mail storage like we are 1998, and employers routinely screen on incoming and outgoing email. More on that in the following section. Then, at least make sure you use this address as an accepted alias to your email provider. For flexibility, you will have to look for provider supporting:

  • IMAP (POP3 should not be used as more than a backup)
  • SSL
  • Decent amount of server storage. That depends on you, but I consider anything below 5GB to be too small, as I store everything on the server.

Those are the very strict minimum. To make things as they must be done, add:

  • Encrypted storage

Showing your hipness

Ah, damn hipsters! Nobody ever looked hip using Google's products. You're just the most mainstream, conformist Internet user there is.


A delicate matter when it comes to privacy since many free email providers have servers subject to US law. It's no secret anymore, since Snowden's heroic gesture, that the former "freedom country" has an ongoing, large-scale spying programs of its citizens and foreigners whose communications are transiting on US soil. Actually, it is a very dated news. I am not saying that other countries don't spy on their citizens, just that you may still have some reasonable defence in the subject.

If you want to simply avoid giving too much information about yourself to a single company, free alternatives are out there. Avoiding unlawful government surveillance is harder. If you don't feel concerned because you may have "nothing to hide", that doesn't mean you can show everything, right?

And at least show your correspondents some respect. When you reply with an @gmail.com address, you force them to abide by Google's (opaque) rules, even if they did not wish for it. The geekiest among you will surely think about PGP encryption of messages, rightfully so, but unfortunately, in order to encrypt a message, you have to have you correspondent's public encryption key, which is still rare, even among the geek crowd. For the record, an encrypted message looks like this:

Nothing to be read by opaque companies, their bots or by their disgruntled employees.

Now, what about using your university's address? Assuming they do not subcontract Google for that (them sold bastards!), many of them give you only a paltry 60 to 100MiB that you can't reasonably get a use for nowadays. Even a mere photo is 3MiB. So you will have to redirect it to your email provider, and configure your mail hosting to accept your academic address as a valid alias, allowing you to receive and send emails using it. The same rules as before apply here: standing in the shoes of a professor or potential employer, it does look awkward to send an email to jane.vilallonga@queenu.edu only to receive an answer from curly_head34@hotmail.com. Seriously, don't do it.

Your employer-issued email address is a different animal, though. Although it does surely look pro, I would still recommend that you don't use it at all for any communication not related to the company. Assume all emails coming in and out are screened and in plain view of the sysadmin there. Better stick with a private email provider.

SMTP server

It would be of no use to have a privacy-abiding provider only to use a shady SMTP server. Make sure you only use the ones provided by your hosting company.

Some email providers


Yahoo! This former "King of the Web" has fallen much since Google's rise, but remain a very common choice to many. It offers localized domains such as @yahoo.ca, @yahoo.fr, @yahoo.com, and @ymail.com, and many others. Their customer service is crappy, but you get what you pay for.


GMX The successor to Caramail, originally from Germany. I haven't tested it myself, so comments are welcome.


Yandex Feedback is welcome on this one. IMAP server is supposed to be very fine.



But the best way is to set up your own, private mail server at home (difficult, time-consuming process to make it "just work"), or use a paid-for provider. Some of them don't offer actual unlimited storage, and that's a fair price to pay for privacy. Remember that if you do not pay for a product, YOU ARE THE PRODUCT. I personally went down that route years ago, and is by far the most efficient mean of getting past companies' contempt for privacy.

Sud-Ouest (EU-based) Private mail hosting, where you pay what you deem reasonable. They offer fully-secured storage and IMAP connections, and explicitly state their servers are located only in the EU in order to provide you with the best privacy protection.

OVH (Fr-based) Considering that France does spy on its datacenters and that OVH it the world's biggest hosting company, I would rather avoid this one, unless they can guarantee storage is encrypted. Decision is up to you.

KreativMedia (Switzerland-based) Private mail hosting with encrypted mail storage, among others. Since a web hosting is included, choose only if you have something to host. There's also an option for a FOSS equivalent of Exchange.

DFi (Switzerland-based) Same function as above.

Swisscom (Switzerland-based) Same function as above.

Ganesh (Switzerland-based) Same function as above.