You should be able to legally port your e-mail address to another service

I’ve had my “official” personal email address for 14 years now. I use it everywhere, it speaks my name, but it now unfortunately has to go wherever email addresses go when they’re not used anymore.

The main reason why I’m letting my e-mail address go is because I don’t own it, I can’t rent it and I’m only allowed to use it. And it’s connected to basically every service I use, especially my banking or utilities or shopping. My doctors send me notes to my e-mail address. It controls my entire online presence. And it can be taken away without reason or appeal.

It’s also the worst kind of vendor lock-in. I’ve created and used this address many years before the company decided they’d better business if they peaked through my e-mails and saved them in a weirdly structured way, which they may or may not sell to other people.

I also don’t own my phone number but, as opposed to my e-mail address

Which leads me to:

We should be able to port our e-mail addresses the same way we port telephone numbers

There’re various levels of legislation about what e-mails one can receive, but nothing about actual e-mail addresses. There’s nothing protecting the user in that regard. Did the small robot at Big E-mail Company decide to block the access to your e-mail address? Tough titty said the kitty.

Everybody should be able to change e-mail services without having to change their e-mail address. Companies providing email services should be specifically registered as such, and they should follow a fixed set of rules made to measure the importance e-mail addresses have for users. And this should apply for both paid email services and services that offer various degrees of free plans.

It’s not a technical walk in the park, but not impossible to implement either. Most important, it’s in the benefit of the user. There’s no way of having an internet presence without an e-mail address as there’s no other unique and personal identifier you can use when creating an account anywhere. People have tried usernames and it didn’t quite work out and phone numbers were not as loved (for some strange reason).

For most email services I tried, you have the possibility of moving the e-mails from other services to them. So it’s relatively easy to move your emails around, just not your e-mail address.

What’s the alternative right now?

There’s only one thing you can do: buy your own domain and use it with an e-mail service. By owning* your domain, you own your e-mail address, and you can take it with you and nobody else has a say in that. But this requires a certain, albeit small, degree of technical savviness: you have to point the domain to the e-mail service.

Once you have your e-mail address, just start shopping for email services and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s really great choosing what you need and not what’s given to you: maybe you’d like your e-mails to be hosted in Europe or you need lots of gigabytes available. Or maybe you just like having a real live person on the other end to talk to when you have problems. Did the service suck after 6 months or didn’t deliver? Did your needs change? Just move on to another. Should take less than half an hour.

As for me, I’ve started the long road of switching to my new address. I’m revisiting all my accounts, deleting the ones I don’t need and updating the other. However, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely delete the old address. 14 years is a long time and there’s many more people/places that have my address than I can remember. I’ll probably forward that address forever to my new address. Or anyway, until someone, human or not, decides to zap it.