In an effort to fight boredom and in living in a time where privacy has never been more important, I decided to do something about how my personal conversations are managed.

That means de-googlifying: the act of taking back your privacy by limiting what Google knows about you. And yes, that means your private emails as well.

What's wrong with Gmail?

For the average user, nothing. For someone who has trust issues especially with a provider whose primary business is advertising, a lot.

Remember the times when you could search for something because you want to read up on it, or perhaps just see what something looks like and not be bombarded with ads on your next website hop about that item? 90s kids remember.

While Gmail itself is not a culprit (yet), what's technically stopping Google from scanning your emails (oh wait, they already do that)? Sure, they could say that it's for your security and all, but when you have metadata, what's stopping you from using it for other means? A privacy policy means nothing.

Thus, my search for alternatives began and I had the following options:

  • Protonmail
  • Fastmail
  • Self-Hosting an email server

I tried Protonmail before, but it just doesn't feel right. No proper IMAP support without their bridge (and for good reason, since they are a privacy-focused service), which doesn't fit in my use cases. I do have uses for Protonmail, but for regular emails, this won't cut it.

Self-hosting an email server is a nightmare. You have to work on deliverability, reliability and data management (backing up). Granted, you still have to back up your data even with non-self hosted services but I just don't want to deal with the headache of restoring them when I mess up a server configuration.

So far, so good with Fastmail

I tried the trial for Fastmail using my own email (which is hey@liam.ph by the way, drop me a line and talk to me about anything) and in under ten minutes I got my inbox ready, I've set up my preferences and I've migrated my entire Gmail inbox with a simple click.

Granted, email importers are also available with other sites but Fastmail's importer just worked. All my emails were intact, and have been organized to my liking.

I especially like the wildcard email: anything@your.email.domain gets sent to your+anything@email.domain – really neat. I could do twitter@hey.liam.ph and it'll get sent to my hey@liam.ph inbox, which I could filter and set rules for.

Needless to say, I'm impressed. The entire process was done in ten minutes and I've migrated everything I needed with no trouble.

Cleaning out Gmail

Since I've confirmed that my new Fastmail account works properly, I've set up Gmail so that everything that gets sent to my old Gmail account will be forwarded automatically to my new inbox (which moves it to a specific folder according to the filters/rules I've created in Fastmail), and Gmail deletes their copy afterwards.

I no longer have to open Gmail. I still have to for work email, but that's something out of my control, plus I'll probably be in violation of company policy. Not gonna touch that.

I'm already using Seafile for my personal cloud, so that's Gmail and Google Drive gone. All that's left to do now is prepare backup scripts and set up backup notifications (which, thanks to Project Mercury, I could set up real quick).

Take control of your privacy and try to de-googlify your digital life.