Leaving Gmail is difficult. In some cases impossible. Google with their thousands of employees and years of experience in the field, have created an excellent product that definitely helps people throughout the world. The features offered are excellent, mature and time saving.
This is part of a series of blog posts, outlining my efforts to no longer use Google products
The problem starts with what Google does with your data. The fact that some Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm scans your emails as they come in or go out and creates more metadata for your own social profile is the problem. What is that data used for? One of the explanations is targeted advertising. However, with the recent revelations on the bias that exists in Google, especially against voices that they do not agree with, it is difficult to not be skeptical and concerned.
I have researched a lot in terms of finding a suitable home for my and my family’s emails. There are three factors that I took into account:
If you look at all three factors, Gmail is pretty much at the top of the list. As alternatives (and this is just my personal opinion) the following services made my top list:
A great GMail replacement overall. They offer a very competitive and cheap service. The user interface is very well thought after and the Zoho account allows you to access all the products that the Zoho Suite can offer such as documents, spreadsheets, presentations etc.
On the mobile side, they offer applications that will help make your life easier. Their Calendar and Contacts synchronize with the Zoho account giving you exactly what Google offers - although you still need the Google account for your cellphone to operate (Android).
The only bad thing I can offer for Zoho Mail is the labels and the folders functionality. Perhaps this is a just GMail feature, but I have not seen this anywhere else. In GMail one can attach any number of labels (with rules) to any message. A message could have more than one labels. Yes the same applies to Zoho. However, when connecting to your email via IMAP, GMail treats the labels as IMAP folders, so you see your email organized. With Zoho, folders are different than labels and as such, when connecting to your mailbox via say Thunderbird, you end up with an inbox that can have thousands of messages.
This platform is extremely promising but very young in my view. They offer full encryption and are based in Switzerland which are huge advantages. They also have plans to offer some amazing services such as File storage, backup, contacts, pay as well as dial (pay as you go phone service).
They are just not there yet. For my purposes I could not transfer my domain and there is no user management for the domain. Additionally 1GB of storage with (currently) no way to increase it were deal breakers for me.
I am however following their efforts closely. This could very well become a great competitor to GMail.
Tutanota is based in Germany and offers a great product with full encryption. They also have an encrypted calendar and their source code is open sourced. They pride themselves on being Google Free, guaranteeing maximum security.
Although this was a great candidate for me, the price was a bit high for my taste and that is the only reason why I did not choose them.
Last but not least ProtonMail. I have been following ProtonMail a bit after they launched. I created a free account years ago and even donated some money to them because I believed in their project. They did not disappoint some years later.
If the option was available at the time, I would have changed email services a few years back, but ProtonMail was not offering organizations and custom domains at the time. However this has been rectified and here we are.
Their encryption, open source application (written in Angular), hosted in Switzerland were a few of the reasons I chose them. Their pricing model was cheaper than Tutanota so that is why they won me over.
I have moved all of our emails over and am using it on a daily basis on all my devices. Very good and reliable email, which takes a bit to get used to coming from GMail.
Certain things are missing. The calendar is one of them but it is already in the pipeline so they are working on that.
The way that the labels and filters are managed requires some love. The way GMail has designed these features is definitely better. Far less clicks to create a filter from a message and attach a label to it vs. ProtonMail. Also the labels manager has some quirks that could use some help, for instance not having the labels auto sorted, when you add a label you end up at the bottom of the list making it tricky to create another label etc. These are all personal preferences though and do not demean the product.
In all, I am very satisfied with ProtonMail. I have already exchanged keys with some of my contacts and am sending as well as receiving encrypted emails with them.
One thing to note is that ProtonMail offers a free mail service. You don’t get the full feature list but you have enough to get you going if you do not wish to pay.
If you embark on a similar journey to remove don’t be evil from your online life, an encrypted email service will serve you well. Yes of course you will have to pay for it, but remember:
if you don’t pay for a product, you are the product