Monday, July 13, 2009

Your email address

For most people, their primary online touchpoint is their email address. Good old fashioned email ... the Internet's original killer app. Yet for all its importance and usefulness, it's amazing how cavalier most people are about their email address.

Will you have the same email address 20 years from now? Do you care? Or maybe it's just one of those annoying things that you have to "manage" through life, like signing up for utilities and notifying friends when you move to a new home address.

If you could pick any email address to identify you, would you pick the one you have now? Is it tied to a particular mail application (, Or your current Internet provider (,,

What was your email address in 1999? Can you search through your old email to find that one B&B in Napa that your old neighbors recommended?

I think that for a lot of people, most of these questions are kind of annoying because of our history with "addresses". "Of course it would be nice to have the same email address ... I'd also like to never have to send in a change of address card, change my phone number, or update my credit card info. How realistic is that? You think that if I change to DSL that Comcast is just gonna let me keep my email address?" Typically, things we think of as addresses are ephermal and tied to some kind of physical presence. Why do we have to drag those limitations into addresses in the online world?

It may be surprising for most people to realize that it's really not all that hard to choose whatever email address(es) you'd like and to keep it for life. The benefits are many and real. The problem is, no online services are incented to help you do this. Why would AT&T want you to have an email address not tied to their domain? They wouldn't: it represents a real switching cost and probably causes you to think twice before investigating a new service provider. Why would Yahoo! want you to have a email address? They wouldn't: then you might stop using their web application and stop seeing their ads.

Nope, you're not going to get a lot of help from these "service providers", so as a result a lot of this is more confusing that it really needs to be. I'd like to walk you through some of the steps you need to do to secure a permanent email address. It's a bit of work and it's not free, but the first step is the most important and actually will pay dividends way beyond your email address: securing your own domain name. Owning your own domain is the critical component for managing your online identity.

To be continued...

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