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How Do I Get an Email Address for Life?

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I’ve used {now defunct service redacted} for several years in order to avoid notifying my contacts I’ve changed my email address. They promised me a single email address I could keep forever. Except I now find that the site is working, but it doesn’t allow any view of my account. The page merely says, “It works! This is the default web page for this server. The web server software is running, but no content has been added yet.” Are you able to help me?

Help you get your account back? No.

Help you avoid this situation again in the future? Absolutely.

It’s exceptionally frustrating when a service promising to provide something forever goes away. Apparently, “forever” isn’t what it used to be.

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Email for life

Having a single email address you can count on working for the rest of your days is pretty appealing, mostly because changing your email address is such a pain.

You’d never have to tell all your friends that your email address was changing, and you’d never have to hope that they noticed and updated their address book.

You’d never have to run around to all the online services you use and the online shopping sites you frequent to manually update your email address.

You’d never have to lose important email because someone didn’t have your new, current, updated email address.

Your email address is what it is, and isn’t going to change.

There are a few ways to make that happen.

Worst: your ISP

emailforever@randomisp.comOne thing I can tell you not to do is this: rely on the email address that your ISP gives you as part of your service.

You will move. Your ISP will change. Your ISP will be bought by another ISP. Your ISP will go out of business.

Regardless of the reason, one thing I can tell you: the email address assigned to you by your ISP will need to be changed at some point.

There are very, very few exceptions.1

Better: a large company’s email service

Google and Gmail will probably be around for a while. Hotmail email addresses will probably work for as long as Microsoft exists, even though all traces of the website have changed to Outlook.com.

Yahoo? Your guess is as good as mine, given recent turmoil in that company. AOL? Probably good for a while.

The point here is that you can, indeed, count on some of the existing general purpose email services to be around for a very long time, and you can probably guess which ones I consider the safest in that respect: Google’s and Microsoft’s.

Paid email services are a little more difficult to judge, since their existence is, at least in part, predicated on making money. Should that change, priorities might change, and you could someday get that unwelcome message that the service is closing down.

Special-purpose email services run an additional risk: their purpose. ProtonMail, for example, is a fully encrypted email service that could someday be at the mercy of various governments for whom encryption is an anathema. We’ve seen such services shut down in the past, either in response to government requests or in reaction to government threats.

But using a service like Gmail or Outlook.com is a pretty reasonable solution — as long as you don’t lose your account to a hack.

Best: your own domain

The best solution is not the simplest, but it puts nearly everything under your control.

Own your own domain.

Just as I own “askleo.com”, you can purchase (more correctly, lease) a domain on the internet that is completely and only yours. You control all the email addresses on that domain (as many as you like!), but more importantly, you control exactly how and where that email is handled, and can change it at any time.

Email on your own domain can be handled several different ways:

Domain registrars often offer email services. They become your email provider for the email addresses on your domain.

Your domain host (if you choose to host a website with your domain) almost certainly offers email services. Once again, they become your email provider for the email addresses on your domain.

Any other email account anywhere. Even if your registrar doesn’t offer email services directly, they often offer email forwarding. Email sent to your email address on your domain is automatically forwarded to any other email address on any other service. You then deal with your email using that other service.

Any other email service that can import POP3. Most of the major email services (i.e. Gmail and Outlook.com, among others) support what I refer to as “POP3 pickup”. These services act like an email client program, picking up your email from the email service provided by your registrar or host. You then interact with your email using these major services as you like.

There are other options; those are just the most common.

Why your domain is best

Here’s why this approach is key: you can change the approach at any time without changing your email address. As long as you own your domain, your email address need never change, even though the way it’s handled can be changed as needed.

For example, let’s say:

  • You own the internet domain, “yourveryowndomainname.com”2.
  • You have an email address, leo@yourveryowndomainname.com.
  • Your domain registrar provides basic email services.
  • You use Google Mail to access the servers at your registrar, fetch the email sent to you, and send email as leo@yourveryowndomainname.com.

In other words, you use your Gmail account to send and receive email as leo@yourveryowndomainname.com.

One day, your Gmail account is hacked. Or Google makes you angry enough to want to leave. Or (long shot here) Google goes out of business.

No problem. You set up the same system, only this time you use your account at Outlook.com. Your email address never changes — it’s still leo@yourveryowndomainname.com; you’re just using Outlook.com to access it.

It’s what I do

Email sent to any email address that’s destined for me @askleo.com is actually handled by a Google Mail account. My replies? Usually typed in the Gmail web interface.

The same is true for my personal email: all handled by Gmail.

If I ever want to change, I can. If I ever want my registrar to handle it, they can. If I ever want to handle it myself, I can.3 If I want to switch it all to Outlook.com, or Yahoo! Mail, or something else, I can.

All without changing my email address @askleo.com or @ any of the other domains I happen to own.

As long as I own those domains, the email addresses need not change.

And most I intend to own for the rest of my life.

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Footnotes & references

1: Two things have to be true: you never move outside of your ISP’s coverage area, and they never change their email service. Ever. Both are highly unlikely.

2: You don’t, I do. It’s an example domain. You would use whatever domain you like and can purchase.

3: This requires that I run my own mail server, which I actually have available to me.

24 comments on “How Do I Get an Email Address for Life?”

  1. I agree with you but what happens if your domain host goes bust? I’d rather have a paid for Email address with Google if I want to pay for it.

    • Domain hosts, at least, have a formal secession plan. If my domain host goes bust, for example, then another is in line to replace it, by definition. (Though, honestly, it probably had about as much chance as Google going bust, but good to note.)

      In ALL cases you’re probably at greater risk of a hack. Google will have no support for you. Your Domain Registrar will.

  2. Hmm, not sure about the line “If my domain host goes bust, for example, then another is in line to replace it” how does it ensure your emails are secure? Does the new one takes them over and preserves them?
    Incidentally, I have my own domain and server but use my Google email most.

    PS why do I have to type in my name and address every time now? Didn’t need to before.

    • Regardless of where you hold your mail, you MUST back it up. No, a dieing domain host will probably toss your email, but if you’re backing it up in just about ANY way (even fetching it into google is a start), then you’d lose nothing.

      Name and address: you mean here? That’s a cookie thing – are you clearing cookies?

    • What happens when pobox.com goes away? That’s EXACTLY the scenario that the original question was about. Your email address belongs to them, and if they go out of business your email address goes with them.

  3. This is really good advice i have used my own domain email for over 10 years and have moved WEB host multiple times migrating my mail along with it, this is usually very simple to do and with no loss of important mail, before i migrate host i usually setup the email in outlook and download the entire mailbox to my laptop, having your own domain mail allows you to add addresses for other family members and allows your to have different addresses for different purposes.

    I also use Gmail on redirect for general internet sites i join from time to time (like here) and use my primary domain mail account for important mail such as service providers and friends

    Registering a domain name is very low cost @$10 per annum and hosting is cheap if you only need mail hosting , this can often be handled by the domain registrar

  4. I had an e-mail address using my personal dot US domain. I figured that was eternal. Well, it wasn’t!

    One day I got an e-mail from the company that handles the dot US domains. They said I had to prove I was a US citizen in order to keep my dot US domain. This was because I had my personal information “protected” (hidden from public view) by my domain name registrar to minimize spamming of my account. Unfortunately my ISP wouldn’t help me with this problem. At first they said they would and then they dropped the ball.

    They said they would accept the following as proof of my US citizenship:

    1. Copy of my passport (I think it was the photo page).
    2. Copy of my birth certificate.

    First, I do not have a passport (haven’t needed one since I retired from the military).
    And I was not about to give them a copy of my birth certificate because with all the hackings going on, if someone would have hacked their system, that’s all the hackers would need for identity theft.

    They said that’s all they could accept – according to their contract with the US Dept of Commerce. So they immediately closed down my domain as of midnight. I had to figure out where all my e-mail addressres were and contact those people to change it. I’m sure I still haven’t totally recovered from that mess.

    Now I have a gmail account, but am not happy with gmail’s spam system. I get 9 e-mails every day from the same provider. Some days I get all 9. Other days I don’t because gmail thinks some of them are spam. I would love to tell gmail to turn off their spam filter for my account and let me manage it myself.

    • You can turn off gmail spam filtering for any address that you are sure will always be genuine.
      (I do this a lot, for the same reason you mention – messages which I know are definitely not spam, and which reading them I struggle to think what kind of cockamamie algorithm could possibly think they are)
      To do this you need to first find and open a message from the address you always want to receive messages from.
      Then using the top right drop down arrow, choose the option “Filter messages like these”
      Nine times out of ten it chooses to filter based on the email address or “list id” for mailing lists, which generally works just fine.
      Hit “Create filter with this search”
      Now it will open a screen where you can choose what you want to do – in this case tick the box for “Never send it to spam”
      If you have some already in spam, tick the “Also apply filter to xx matching conversations” to have them pulled out of spam.
      Click create filter – and your job is done – you will never have to pick that email out of spam again.
      (Of course nothing is guaranteed to last forever – many of the ones I have done this with have changed the address they send from every few years though, so I do still need to keep an eye open for any slipping through)

  5. OK, you’ve convinced me that I should use my own domain for my email address. But you left out one very important part of that process: How do I notify my hundreds of contacts of the change from my present email address to the new one? Doing so one by one would be a major PIA and I can’t send out the information to everyone at once b/c that will look like spam. So what do I o?
    Thanks,
    Vicky Campagna
    {email address removed}

    • The only solution is to notify them yourself, or update the sites that have your email address yourself. This is true any time you change an email address. That’s why you only want to do it once, to your email address for life.

      PS: NEVER post your email address in a public forum, as you did here. It’s asking for spam.

    • Programs like Outlook (MS Office version) and Thunderbird allow you do do a mail merge so each person gets an individual personally addressed email.

  6. I got my own email address quite a few years ago. Does it cost me? Yes.
    I have changed service providers at least 4-5 times but my web host remained stable.
    If he went down (over 10 years) I could probably transfer to a different web host.

  7. For those who can, being a member of an alumni association may be the answer to a permanent address. It is unlikely a university, or college, especially a state one will ever go out of business during your lifetime. Some have associate members who have not attended the school but are supporters etc.

  8. Just want to go on record here that – based on Leo’s recommendation here on this site – I signed up (domain name and email) with his provider (SOS) several years ago, and have been very pleased with their service. I don’t get anything for recommending them – I just wanted to share my positive experience with the company.

  9. I use Office outlook not outlook.com, I also own my own domain, can I use my office servers to send and collect my domain mail in the same way you have described the Gmail system. I do prefer the office system to both outlook.com and Gmail

  10. I had a email for 2 months and it changed. The email provider was Temp-Mail. and my email went from {email address removed} to {email address removed}. I was saddened. nickrizos was nowhere to be found.

  11. Since I also have a .us domain, I looked the information. I found “Registrants of .us domains must be American citizens, residents, or organizations, or a foreign entity with a presence in the United States of America.” Since this is a requirement, I am surprised that the company you registered with didn’t ask for that information when you registered it.

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