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Monday, November 17, 2008

Ditch Your Old E-mail Addresses

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Back in the 1990s, you were an early adopter. You got yourself an address or a Hotmail address. Or, you were issued an e-mail address when you signed up for your residential internet access, which you handed out to everyone as a badge of honor.

Times have changed, and that old address is a black hole for spam. You never check it, and you don't want to. But your stupid ISP, your stubborn family members and high school buddies insist on sending you important things there.

In other words, you are a slave to an e-mail address that you don't want or which makes you use an interface that sucks. You can't give it up because thousands of your close personal friends only know you as or A blind switch to a new e-mail address is out of the question -- you probably don't even know everyone who has the old one, and grandma wouldn't understand anyway.

Here's how to move on up.



Set up camp

Get an account at real service like Gmail. Call yourself anything you want -- you won't be giving out this address.

Get a domain of your own. This is the best $10 you will ever spend. You probably won't be able to get the domain name you really want -- each one is unique, and all but the most obscure and combinations are already taken. Be creative (think vanity license plate) and you will probably get something close to what you want.

Tip: Read Webmonkey's tutorial, "Choose and Register a Domain Name"

Once you've got a domain, set up your mail preferences so that every e-mail sent to the domain gets accepted. Otherwise, any incoming mail not sent to your master account will bounce. This is crucial for the next step of the process.

Note: Keep in mind that you will have to pay somebody to host this domain for you and handle your e-mail. Some hosting companies offer mail-only hosting for $5/month or less, but don't expect much in the way of prompt, personalized service at those prices. Alternatively, you can host your own mail server. And there are some domain hosters, like, which will let you manage mail for free.

Redirect the traffic

On your new domain hosting service, redirect your *@[] to your Gmail account.

Tell everyone in your contact book your new e-mail address. Only about 5% of your friends will pay attention, and half of those will go to the trouble of updating your deets in their address book.

Give out different addresses as much as possible. So give wired@yourdomain to wired and put bc2008@yourdomain on your business card. That way when you start receiving spam, you'll know where they got your address from and you can block a single address without having to inform all your other contacts.

On your Hotmail/AOL/whatever account, forward all of your incoming mail to a unique name at your * account. Forward your AOL mail to aol@[]. Forward your mail to hotmaill@[], and so on.

Spread the word

Use the "Vacation reply" in Gmail (activate it in Gmail's Settings tab) to announce to each sender your new address. Make sure that new address is the unique name described above.

On your Gmail account, filter incoming mail so that the source of each of your incoming emails is recognizable. So, filter all mail addressed to hotmail@[] so it shows up labeled as "Hotmail".

Tell each of these stragglers your new address.

Cut the ties

When the trickle of e-mail from an old account approaches zero, cancel the old account or connect it to an autoresponder telling the sender the address is no longer in use and directing them to your website.