Don't be blind

One of the use cases we are working on at Zeer0 is to give users the ability to get unlimited, real email IDs on their own domain without a lengthy account creation process. Think of it as a Mailinator for your own domain.

By real email ids, I, of course, mean whatever email id you want @ whatever domain you own, not the GMail trick of letting you append a +some_string to your gmail account.

Why do we need this feature?

Email is a fantastic tool. It is asynchronous. It mostly just works across any and every email provider. I don’t think that till date, any online product has been able to maintain its decentralized form to the extent email has.

In the physical world, even ordinary widgets like a wall socket have different specs in different countries. In the digital realm, CDs came closest. Anyone could press a CD and so long as one had a CD player to read the CD, exchanging information was possible.

Collaborating

Email, great as it is, is built around reading and writing, not collaborating. Someone sends you an email, you read it. When you want to reach someone, you send them an email. But what do you do when you wish you discuss an email with someone?

This happens more often than we may realize.

When we want to discuss an email with someone, we forward them a copy. They read your forwarded email and reply and then you RE: to their RE: and they RE:RE:RE: your reply ad nauseam.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you and everyone you cared about shared an inbox and every email in that shared inbox came with the ability to post comments, add markup, edit, and more?

The unlimited emails feature sets up for that. The adjacent feature which makes it possible is to restrict visibility of threads by email accounts. For example, your tax consultant could have visibility to emails from bank sent to yourbank@yourdomain.com while your friends could see and collaborate on emails sent to weekendtrip@yourdomain.com.

This is the killer feature for Zeer0 but that needs unlimited email ids to first work.

Identity

In its current form, your email id has become your identifier. On many websites, Facebook comes to mind, you can only create an account with a valid email address.

While this by itself is not really an issue, by tying us to a small number of email ids gives surveillance capitalism all the raw material they need to form a cohesive and comprehensive picture of who we are.

If you have even a shred of doubt about how critical the 1:1 mapping between you and your email address, you should know that today, Facebook lets advertisers upload a list of emails and then ask Facebook to show their ads to others like those in the email list.

Mosaic In other words, they have used your email to create a mosaic of you as an individual.

Just like there are gaps between each individual pieces of mosaic which cease to matter once you take a step back to take in the whole pattern, advertisers have a pretty comprehensive view of you as an individual.

The argument

Having the ability to create and hand out email addresses on demand disrupts this mosaic-making a little. It forces advertisers to dig a little deeper, maybe be more creative in their techniques to reach the right target demographic.

Many advertisers will not want to spend the time and effort to reduce your plethora of emails into a single you which to me, sounds like a huge win. Anything which reduces what the world can deduce about you by simply uploading your email id to an advertising platform counts as a good thing.

Life Analytics

I have a friend, Mike, who absolutely loves data. For example, one day, over lunch he excitedly showed me his FourSquare travel map for the last four years. He drew so much pleasure in reminiscing about a particular rest stop of a trip to North Carolina to visit his family.

To say that he is obsessed with data and life analytics is to put it mildly.

Email is one black box in his zeal to catalog as much as possible of his life. This feature breaks open the black box to give people like Mike insight. Just like his credit card can catalog his purchases by industry, now his email can be sliced and diced into ever more fine tuned reports to give him more insight.

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Businesses have caught on

At the outset, I mentioned that GMail lets you add any string you want to your email id to effectively give yourself unlimited email addresses.

This was expected to give us more control over our interactions with businesses but businesses too have evolved in this arms race with their consumers. Many online businesses casually strip out the +string part of a gmail address rendering the entire argument from Google moot.

The only way to get around this is to create as many new emails as you want for each business you interact with.

The Upshot

With these many reasons for using multiple email ids you own, I hope I have made my case for reconsidering your email strategy. The incentives of an email provider banking on advertising to make money are not aligned with yours which should be to safeguard your privacy and that of people in your orbit.

Like they say, if something is free, you are the product.

Written with StackEdit.