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...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I just want to assure you that there is a point to all of this. It's not, I hope, just navel-gazing meta-blogging. I can hear the voices in the chorus: "Doesn't he know that Plaxo tried to do this identity thing years ago?" ... and: "Oh, how cute. He's trying to invent Facebook from first principles." I hope this is not the case, but truthfully I don't really know exactly where this is heading. It'll just take some time to develop the themes we want to talk about. Now that I'm not working I can take the time!

But just like no one visits the same Las Vegas, no one visits the same Internet. My experiences are just that: my experiences. Yet I will boldly share my opinions as if they are facts. You, gentle reader, need to figure out which is which -- and call my attention when I'm ignoring something obvious.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


My previous post was not really part of the central mission of this blog, was it? So we're faced with another decision: how do you share different aspects of your personality, or expose different facets of your online identity? Should I keep this blog tightly focused on the tales of developing a persistent online indentity and then start up another blog for more personal stuff? Or should I have posted that on facebook? What about when I want to share other passions of mine, like music or programming or gadgets -- should I start up separate blogs for those too?

I think a better solution is to use tags and expand the mission of the blog somewhat. So that's what I've done ... I've attached tags (or as Blogger calls then, "labels") to each of my previous posts, and you can see in the right margin that there's a little directory of the different tags. Of course, that's placing a little bit more of a burden on downstream consumers (that would be "you"). It would be nice to be able to pick and choose which aspects of me you'd like to follow. But that's more of a universal problem, and it's all part of this discussion.

I guess one way to think about it is that maybe I'm just treating this blog as a medium, not a message. Perhaps this blog is just a hosting vehicle for serving and categorizing 500-word posts that spans all kinds of subjects. I don't think that's completely true, but we'll see how things evolve. For now, we'll just tag this as a "meta-blogging" post and move along.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Time for the next stage

After giving it a lot of thought and consideration, tomorrow is going to be my last day at Google. I've been working on FeedBurner since 2003 and I feel that the product is heading in a great direction with a fantastic, talented team that will take it to the next level, so it just feels like the right time to hand over the keys. I'm going to be taking some time off, then I'll probably try to think of something new to start up in the fall or winter.

I have worked with many amazing people and learned a ton over the last two years at Google. I certainly can't imagine working for another big company -- I think I'm pretty much spoiled there. A few amazing things about the company that I value and will bring to any future endeavors are Google's climate of trust and transparency, how the internal communication and the external communication are perfectly aligned, and how projects anticipate and design for success and scale. And the food ... I won't forget about the food.

FeedBurner was acquired by Google in June 2007, and we spent the better part of the last two years porting the application to the Google technology stack. At times it was a painful process, but we did it, and the product is better for it. I know it seems like we've been stagnant, but FeedBurner is now positioned to start adding cool features again -- to not only improve the feed analytics and monetization options for publishers, but also to help publishers accelerate the distribution of their content, and to become a key component of the real-time web. The team really has some exciting things planned, so please stay tuned.

As for me, I'm going to spend some time to decompress, flush cache, and continue to use this blog to "research out loud". I'm excited to see where it all leads.