All-In on ProtonMail

Let’s just say my email situation is not optimal… It’s grown historically. A long time ago, when my domain-buying habit started, I started to use different email addresses for all sorts of things. To make it even worse I also used aliases for some things. I probably thought having some sort of hierarchy in my addresses would help make my email management easier. Well… it didn’t. It’s a mess. I know that since a long time, but cleaning up an email system is tedious.

Fast forward 10 or 15 years and my email inboxes are just ridiculously scattered all over the place. Way too many. It should only be one, maybe two, and that’s it. One reason I want it to change was because guess what… I don’t get email. It’s promotions, news, sign-in notifications, email validations and receipts. I might get one or two emails per month that are remotely interesting or necessary to keep. I have a whole backup of ALL my emails I ever sent or received. My estimation is, that this whole archive contains about 0 emails worth keeping. But I’m a data hoarder, what can you do. This will stop though. Every email that’s not really, really needed in the future will be deleted right away now. Maybe one of the biggest changes in this journey.

So the decision was clear: I needed to clean up this train wreck, clear cut. New domains (my current main domain was stupid anyways), new service. I wanted my mails to be secure, encryption a must have. Last year I started my first attempt and landed with Tutanota and was happy with it. The one problem: I didn’t use it. I still rely on my old email system. I thought about why and here are the main reasons:

  • There’s no real app. Everything is in the browser, the mobile apps are just wrappers
  • The usability is far from great
  • It’s extremely closed off. I want and need to be able to use a different app, at least on my Mac

Tutanota itself is great! It’s simple and does what it promises for an extremely low price. Plus: its a German company. I will never give more information to US companies than I have to. I don’t want the NSA to read my emails.

But since I didn’t solve any problem with Tutanota – I just paid for a wish I had – I needed a different solution. A discussion on Micro.blog led me to Mailbox.org. I heard that name a couple of times by now and decided to give it an honest try. It looked neat! Secure, easy to use, affordable, open PGP standard, German… All my requirements were checked off! Until I used it

I had to pay to send emails to external addresses. Ok, fine, but how am I supposed to try an email service by only being able to send emails to myself?! Never mind; I even paid for two months. Why not? It looked great and I only heard good things about it. And so my account got unlocked and I was able to send emails! At least that’s what I was told. I got MailMate to send 1 email. I did not get any iOS app to send a mail. I did not even get their own web-mailer to send an email! There were some other minor things that annoyed me a little, but nothing that would prevent me from using it as my new go-to email service. But I didn’t even bother to contact their support. An email service where I can’t send emails to begin with without contacting their support is not for me. I might try again at some point for friends & family though.

After that, I stumbled upon Posteo again and wondered why I didn’t check that one out already. It’s a green service! Even more check marks on my list! Oh, wait… no custom domains, for… reasons? Deal breaker.

And so I once again landed at ProtonMail. I tried it in the past and use a dummy account for my VPN service, but it never clicked with me. I always liked it though. The usability is on a whole other level compared to Tutanota. It can’t even be compared at this point. I really like Tutanota, they have all my sympathies and I wish them all the success they can have! But without a major rework of their client-side, they will probably never get where they deserve to be. Another plus for ProtonMail is that it is based in Switzerland and therefore under even stricter data privacy laws. They do a lot of things right. They have what I missed the most at Tutanota: an IMAP bridge that lets me use my client of choice on the Mac, while keeping my emails secure. without constraining me to a terrible web UI. If you’re a ProtonMail user, you should definitely check out their Beta version with a much improved user interface. (An iOS Beta is also available for Testflight, but it’s not that much different to the official version at the moment)

So… here I am. In full transition to a much better email setup. My two domains run on ProtonMail now and I already moved some of my most used services to one of them. I’m phasing out my old addresses and will finally be able to get rid of those domains and a whole hosting provider I’m not satisfied with since forever, but that ran my messed up email system. This transition will also mean to move friends and family to other services. This will probably be the most complicated part of this project. Pro tip: don’t have family or friends rely on your domain and/or hosting system which they think will exist for the rest of their lives. I will probably keep the old system running for another year though, just to make sure I don’t have any leftovers.

To sum it up: I can really recommend ProtonMail so far. It’s secure, easy to use, not too expensive… The only downside is that I have to use their own iOS client and can’t turn to Canary for example, but it`s fine. I really hope they will improve it, but compared to Tutanota, it’s not a deal breaker for me. Setting up my custom domains worked like a charm (it didn’t with Mailbox.org) and everything around it makes me feel at home.

I might finally have a simple yet secure email setup! It’s been a long time coming, but I’m happy about where this is going so far.