Email Address Matters

January 11th, 2010 24 Comments

Icon by husin.sani on Flickr used under Creative CommonsThanks to Reader, today I found this piece (h/t Slashdot and Lifehacker) by a freelance writer asking whether her aol.com email address was hopelessly square and dated.

I noticed this post initially because I can’t think of a single contact of mine with an aol.com address. I used to help a friend with AOL about five years ago, but eventually, she switched to Yahoo and forwarded her AOL account.

Lifehacker turned an interesting phrase by asking “What’s Your Email Prejudice?”, which totally rang true for me. You can tell (or assume, anyway) a lot about someone based on an email address, or more specifically, its domain.

In this case, I’m referring to consumer domains, i.e. webmail and for-pay inboxes provided by ISPs like AOL, Comcast, etc. not to work domains.

The more I thought about this, I realized that I expect a GMail account when vetting resumes or candidates for work or other collaboration. Frankly, an address on a personal domain is probably highest on the list, then GMail.

After that, they all seem pretty equal, maybe with aol.com at the bottom. Tough to tell really. I can’t recall the last time I came across that domain in a professional situation. I still see some yahoo.com and a few hotmail.com, but it feels like pretty much everyone has GMail.

Obviously, I work with a much geekier crowd than average, so I doubt my prejudices are typical.

I don’t usually notice the account name, not sure why, just the domain.

Looking back at my history of consumer webmail accounts, I can trace an interesting trajectory. I started out with Excite (mailexcite.com) and Hotmail (before they were acquired by Microsoft) addresses, then added yahoo.com and now I use GMail primarily.

Unlike most people, I never sent an announcement that I was moving, I just left the old accounts open and started communicating from the new account.

Everyone should have at least two email addresses e.g. a private account for real communication and one for potentially spammy situations that require a valid email. So, I don’t see a huge need for a moving email, unless the old service isn’t free (like AOL), and you plan to nuke the inbox.

Anyway, I find this fascinating, and I wonder why I hadn’t thought about it in the past. Email addresses, both the account and domain, are interesting sociological studies and can create impressions all by themselves.

Find the comments and share your email prejudices.


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24 Responses to “Email Address Matters”

  1. Dan Norris Says:

    I completely agree and AOL is pretty close to the bottom of my list too. I think I mentally give -0.5 points for hotmail.com these days, not sure why except its current affiliation with M$. I went from my college email to yahoo.com and then to my own personal domain name and have been there ever since (moving it to a few different hosting providers along the way).

    Unlike many, I only use the one account and don't have a “spam only” account anywhere. I do keep my yahoo.com account around as an alternate just for the place that hosts my personal domain (where else would I have them email me if I log a ticket that my email is broken?).

    I think I also give a little +1 to those that use a personal domain on resumes. Oh, I also have a friend that still uses netzero.net as their primary email account–betcha most people don't remember that org either!

  2. Gary Myers Says:

    My personal one is through mail.com which offers about 250+ domains, and I've had it for over a decade now. I pay about $10 a year for the premium option, which means it gets fed to my gmail account from which I get my mail downloaded into Thunderbird.
    I'll probably keep it until I get around to getting my own domain name.
    I use guerillamail.org as my spamcatcher rather than any permanent email account.

  3. John E. Bredehoft (Empoprises) Says:

    I have different accounts for different audiences – and even different situations. For example, if I need to email J.K. at OTN about a work-related matter, I'd probably use my work email account. If I need to email J.K. about my personal blog, I'd probably use my Gmail account.

    And yes, I do use my MSN account when contacting family, people at church, etc.

    You also have to remember that email prejudice goes both ways. There are some instances in which you CANNOT use a Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail account for something – precisely because those accounts are free any very easy to get. For those situations, an aol.com account that you paid for is preferable to a gmail.com account for which you didn't.

  4. F6x Says:

    Sounds similar to a discussion from American Public Media's “Marketplace” from last month.

  5. Molly_Mac Says:

    I have the same bias and I am in the Real Estate industry. I cringe when I see my contacts still using AOL (especially when we offer a free email account from our domain). Personal Domain ranks the highest, then Gmail, but for me, I rank hotmail pretty close to the bottom of the list with AOL and I am not exactly sure why-maybe because it seems like it has been around as long (and I associate it with spam??)

  6. Otto Says:

    Having your own domain is the best way to go. Find a good one, keep it for life. I use Google Apps on my domain, but I could use any service at all, obviously.

  7. Jake Says:

    Agree that hotmail.com is sinking on the list.

    Excellent point about keeping multiple accounts, even if one isn't used except for notifications like “hey, your ticket is updated, and your domain is still down, sorry”.

    I can't imagine why you'd give brownie points to personal domain hosters (cough, @dannorris.com), makes sense though for a technical person to have those skills.

    I remember Netzero, specifically when they were providing dial-up for free. Saw an ad on TV for them the other day; their pitch is weird.

  8. Jake Says:

    Wow, so your mail goes through several hops to its destination in Thunderbird. Why not just pipe mail.com directly into Thunderbird?

    Makes complete sense to hold onto an inbox you've had for 10 years and that you pay to use.

    I don't really have an opinion on .info or .name domains, but I do enjoy the foreign domain to make a word or name, e.g. ma.tt. Well worth the additional money for the cool factor.

  9. Jake Says:

    Huh? What instances are those? I'm pretty sure if I ran into one of those services, it would be for something I don't really want. That's the type of bad IT that would elicit a 4chan flashmob.

    I singled out consumer accounts for this discussion, but as the freelance writer who wrote the initial piece mentions, for independent types w/o technical chops, the email often doubles as work and personal. Not the choice I'd make, but I get it.

  10. Jake Says:

    Interesting discussion, especially in comments. If you hadn't suggested this, seeing “G-mail — that's Google” would have been the end of my attention span.

    I like the comparison to fashion, which has different applications in different situations, e.g. in a tech scenario, you better roll w/GMail or your own domain, whereas in accounting or retail who cares?

  11. Jake Says:

    Interesting. I would have put real estate into the “doesn't matter” bucket. I guess there's a general bias against the old ISPs like Earthlink an AOL, and the old webmail providers like Hotmail. Somehow Yahoo still gets a pass . . .

  12. Jake Says:

    Agreed. I (like Gary above) have that on my list of things to do. You have to like the country code domains though, which is something that might make switching worthwhile. I see ot.to is taken (maybe by you), how cool would that be?

  13. Molly_Mac Says:

    I guess I should be happy that some of the older agent population EVEN has email (and checks it more than once a year) instead of worrying about what is after the @. ;)

    And, it could also be my inner techno geek that twitches. But, I hope it is my “brand awareness” geek ;)

  14. Jake Says:

    I hear you. I know a few realtors, and they're totally into Twitter and social media. Makes a lot of sense.

  15. Gary Myers Says:

    I pump it through GMail because of the near infinite storage on GMail and the web interface and search facilities are good. Thunderbird is partly backup, partly a better tool to write emails (especially those needing attachments). If HTML 5 delivers on the promise of a better way to attach multiple files then it may go to just being a backup.

  16. Jake Says:

    Makes sense. I got the GMail part, but moving another hop to Thunderbird seemed off to me. I guess the client is better. I have problems with the way GMail is resolved into IMAP though, must be too accustomed to the conversation organization.

  17. Gary Myers Says:

    I use POP3 not IMAP. GMail handles it really well. If I send a mail from GMail web, then it is picked up by their POP3 and brought back down to Thunderbird when I next pull the mail from there. Anything I send from Thunderbird stays in the Sent Items folder. So I've got a copy of every email on my hard drive and in GMail's web server. And every month or so, I get around to backing up the Thunderbird files.
    In Thunderbird most things stay in the Inbox for a few weeks until I get time to drag it into folders based on who sent it. Not sophisticated and some folders are getting big. But it hasn't broken yet.

  18. Jake Says:

    Interesting system. I like the mix of other services and local for backup of a paid service :) Always good to have backups, especially of email.

  19. John E. Bredehoft (Empoprises) Says:

    I tried to find a service that didn't like the free e-mail accounts, and the service that I found was…well, the service. As in the military. This is an old article from October 2005, and the military's policy may very well have changed over the last few years, but as of that time, the Navy and Marine Corps blocked access to commercial e-mail services from overseas government computers, citing fears of hackers and viruses. This block also affected dependents, and pretty much cut many off from the outside world.

    “This is the only way I can check my e-mail,” said Navy dependent Patricia Rovito of the computer at the Naples library. Rovito waited ten months to get telephone service and still has no Internet access at home. “This is going to be a pretty sizable hit to morale,” she added.

    Again, this is an old article, but it indicates some of the concerns about those services. And of course, the non-free services are always wonderful and safe… :)

  20. Jake Says:

    Thanks for digging that up, very interesting stuff. I understand blocking certain domains from inside the military network, but I'm not seeing how there's a block on service b/c of free email accounts.

    This is more like a company blocking domains like twitter.com, facebook.com. Maybe I'm defining too narrowly, but I thought you were talking about a service provider denying accounts b/c they were tied to freemail addresses.

  21. Jake Says:

    Thanks for digging that up, very interesting stuff. I understand blocking certain domains from inside the military network, but I'm not seeing how there's a block on service b/c of free email accounts.

    This is more like a company blocking domains like twitter.com, facebook.com. Maybe I'm defining too narrowly, but I thought you were talking about a service provider denying accounts b/c they were tied to freemail addresses.

  22. Meritmaiga Says:

    Dear

    Our reason of contacting you is purely based on seeking your assistance. To tell you more about us, our names are Merit Maiga . I am 27years old while my younger sister is 19 years old we are the only children of our late parents Mr and Mrs Maiga Shaibu and we are living here in Abidjan, the capital city of Cote d Ivoire in West Africa.I am a student with the focus mass communication but the sudden death of our father. I forced myself to discontinue my studies because no one could sponsor my studies again. My mother died many years back when I was just 8 years old and since then I and my younger sister have been with my father and he took me so special as the only son.

    His death was so sudden and was caused by food poisoning as the doctor said in his death certificate but we are suspecting one of my uncle who always travel with him any time he is making overseas trip as the person who planned his death, well only God knows the truth. The issue now is that I and my younger sister want to move out of this country immediately to a more secured place where we will live for the rest of our lives because since the death of our father, his brothers and other family relatives have all taken over all my late father's belongings including his business and houses and they don't even want to consider me and my younger sister.

    In my own case, my father was a business man who delt on Cocoa exportation to Europe and he made a lot of money from this business and own alot of properties and houses, his brothers have taken control of all these things and they can even kill me too if I should ask about them. For this reason, I dont want to be associated with them again. However, my father confided a secret to me before his death in the hospital here. He told me that he deposited a consignment in a security company here in Abidjan Cote D Ivoire, a Trunk box containing the sum of ($9,300,000). and no one knows about this, not even the security company because he registered the content of the box as Family Valuables. He told me that it was because of his wealth that he was poisoned and that I should seek a trust worthy person in a country of my choice who could assist me to claim and invest this money.

    Dear Beloved One, this is the main reason I contacted you. I want you to help me claim this consignment/trunk box (CASH) from the security company here in Abidjan Cote D'Ivoire to your country and also help me and my younger sister to relocate to your country to continue our lives over there. This country is no longer safe for my continual stay because every day here I am living under the fear of those my late father's relatives. We are no longer living in our family house because they might try to kill us since they want to inherit all my late father's properties. If you agree to help me, I will compensate you with 20% of the total sum and also you will manage these funds in any good investment while we will continue our studies and every income made will be shared between us. Thank you and I look forward to your positive response.

    Consider this and get back to me as soon as possible. Through my email at (meritmaiga@yahoo.com)
    Thanks.My Sincere regards.
    Merit Maiga

  23. Dave Goldstick Says:

    I'm sorry, but I wouldn't want to profit from your family's misfortune.

  24. Jake Says:

    I know who killed your father. It was Colonel Mustard in the study with the pipe wrench.

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