Rory Bowman at MacRory.com
Q: How do I change my email address or move to a new one?
A:One of the exciting things about the Internet and modern communications is how fast they change. One of the annoying things about the Internet and modern communications, though, is how fast they change. This can especially be an issue for the heavy or moderate email user, who has given out one email address but may not hear from some people more than once or twice a year. Unlike the telephone, there are no central directories where people can look you up, and unlike most phone companies there is no simple way to have a recorded announce your new address after you are gone. This makes changing an email address one of the most annoying (and potentially costly) things that some people do.
People change email addresses for a variety of reasons: they move to a different city, change from dialup to high-speed, perhaps they leave their current internet service provider (ISP) or perhaps their ISP has been sold and changed their email address for them. I had one client who had printed some beautiful brochures with her email address just before her ISP changed it. At a cost of hundreds of dollars, she had the brochures reprinted, and within a year the ISP had changed her email address again. Without doing anything, she had three email addresses within two years, and at considerable annoyance. Fortunately there are a variety of things you can do now to make it less likely that you will need to change your email address in the future.
Addresses and Mailboxes
One of the important things to understand about email is that an email address and an email box are two different things. Just as one can have a telephone which accepts calls from many numbers (or one number which rings at more than one phone) so email addresses can go to one or more electronic mailboxes, and the box an address “forwards” to can change.
Most people sign up for email with a given ISP and get one mailbox for each address, but you don’t need to use either the mailbox or the address that your ISP provides you, and that is the key to email portability. If you consciously “unchain” your address from any particular mailbox you are as free to move it from place to place as a multinational corporation is to move their phone numbers to Bangladesh or the Cayman Islands. More so, actually. (Isn’t it nice to have more freedom than one of them!). I encourage people planning to keep any email address for a while to do just this, and choose an address that is not bound to one mailbox or ISP.
How Forward of You
Many email providers offer the option to forward your email to another email address if you so choose, so long as you have an email address with them. The trick then is to choose one that is free or so inexpensive that you will be willing to keep it for a long time. Some people choose to attempt this through free webmail services such as Gmail or Yahoo, while others choose explicit forwarding service such as PoBox. All of these can work much as private mailbox rental places do, serving as a drop point for your email for pickup or sending it automatically to where you are.
GMail by Google and Yahoo mail by Yahoo are two free webmail services which allow you to sign up for a free account online and receive mail there through a web interface. What some folks don’t realize, though, is that both of these services also allow you to forward mail to that address to any mailbox you choose. This is currently a free option on GMail and available at Yahoo when you choose to upgrade to their $20-per-year “Mail Plus” program. As well-funded and publicly traded companies, I expect that both of these will be around five years from now, unlike some of the revolving-door companies of the 1990’s who blossomed to morph or fold.
PoBox is a company that got its start in 1995 by offering ONLY mail forwarding. For $20 per year they will provide you with three email addresses and then forward those to any mailbox you choose, as well as forwarding web pages should you so choose. Because they are focused entirely on email, they have a lot of other options available, but mail forwarding is where most people start.
Master Your Domain
A third option is to register your own Internet domain (the part of an email address that goes to the right of the “@” symbol). Although this used to be very arcane and moderately expensive, there are now a variety of companies licensed by ICANN (the domain police) to serve as “registrars” where you can buy your own domain for as little as $10 per year. Many of these companies then hope to sell you web-hosting services, but almost all of them include free email forwarding for one account as part of a basic registration. This is how I came to own the “MacRory.com” domain years ago. There are rules that forbid you from “cyber-squatting” on someone else’s business name in most cases or claiming to be a university, but pretty much any domain ending in “.com” or “.org” or “.net” that is available is widely available. Other registrars handle more domains than this, such as “.biz” or “.info” or “.us” and so on. The simplest way to register a domain that I know of is through Yahoo Domains, which also offers some truly simple and powerful tools to help manage it. If you only want the domain for email, Yahoo even has a special “business email” account which gives you most of what most people want (registration and email) for about $35 per year.
Making the Switch
Once you have decided which way you wish to go, sign up for your new email address and begin to pass it along. Some people just arbitrarily send out one email announcing the address change and then close the old address down, but I usually suggest people plan for a month or two for a more gradual transition during which mail sent to the old or new address will get to you. For AOL users who are thinking they may want to change one day, this is especially useful, as they get the hang of using the new email system and their friends catch on.
Other advantages of understanding email addresses more thoroughly is that you can now choose to add “disposable” addresses for online commerce and places when you want to maintain more privacy or avoid getting onto someone’s spam or junk email list. With GMail this is not so simple, and with your own domain this might be more trouble than it is worth, but with PoBox one can simply change one of your three “alias” addresses and with Yahoo they have a special “Address Guard” feature explicitly for creating several of these disposable addresses at no cost.
Whatever you choose to do, you can free yourself from one ISP and take control of your email addresses, so that they work the way you want to. For help with this or other computer tasks, please consider calling Mac Rory at (360) 695-6929.