The following is an updated version of an article I published two years ago. The subject came up again in a recent conversation. I noticed that the original article was a bit out of date so I have now updated it with new information and am re-publishing it again.
The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Google Mail (Gmail) is arguably the best e-mail service on the planet. It offers a very friendly user interface and perhaps the best spam filter available, as well as more than seven gigabytes of storage for of years of messages. The Gmail user can archive tens of thousands of messages, then later retrieve any of them in seconds with Google's famous search technology. Many people use Gmail as a “filing cabinet” of received e-mail messages. Want to find that message that your distant cousin sent two or three years ago? If you were using Gmail at that time, you could find the message within seconds.
Gmail also has the best spam filter I have ever seen. It accurately filters out almost all the junk and yet rarely removes the wanted messages. Most other spam filters frequently delete good messages, a problem known as “false positives.” I don't think that Gmail's spam filters are perfect, but its filters seem to work much better than the spam filters of most other e-mail services.
Many people I talk with would be willing to switch to Gmail if they didn't have to switch email addresses. They haven't yet switched to Gmail because, “All my genealogy messages are still on the Internet showing my old email address and I don't want to miss anything that is sent to my old address.” Luckily, it is easy to have one email service (Gmail) that receives all the messages sent to both your old and new email addresses. You do not need to check for new messages on two different addresses, Gmail will check up to five old email addresses for you automatically and place all new messages into your new Gmail in-box.
Another reason for switching to Gmail is that it is also a great method of keeping your e-mail service separate from your Internet provider. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of Internet users have had their e-mail addresses abruptly changed when their Internet providers went bankrupt or were acquired by or merged with other companies. Anyone who has been through such a change can tell you that it is traumatic when you are suddenly disconnected from subscribed genealogy mailing lists, when the genealogy queries you posted over the years suddenly become worthless because of an out-of-date mailing address, or when you have to notify all your friends and relatives of your new e-mail address on short notice. Use of an e-mail service other than one provided by your Internet provider reduces the risk of such problems.
For instance, tens of thousands of Verizon customers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont were forced to switch from @verizon.net email addresses to @fairpoint.net addresses with only a few days' notice. Some former Verizon customers reported that they were not notified of the change in e-mail addresses until AFTER the changes had been made! You can read more in my earlier article at http://goo.gl/Ez4Ov.
I would suggest that you never allow your email messages to be “held hostage” by your Internet provider. Your email address should be separate from your Internet provider, allowing you to switch providers at any time you wish. If you move, change employers, or have some other reason for changing your email address, you want to continue to access your email messages, right? You shouldn't be using an email service provided by any Internet provider. Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, and others are all better solutions. However, Gmail appears to be the best solution of all.
I suppose there is always a risk of Gmail going bankrupt, being acquired, or forcing its users to make sudden changes. However, the risk appears to be smaller with the well-funded Google e-mail service than with any other e-mail provider.
Of course, the best part of Gmail is the price: free.
Tens of thousands of users of AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, Comcast, BellSouth, Cox.net, RoadRunner, and other inferior e-mail systems would like to switch to Gmail. The primary reason they do not is the inconvenience of switching and having to notify all their e-mail correspondents of their new e-mail address.
Luckily, there is an easy solution. You can use Gmail and your old e-mail address at the same time. Even better, you can read all your messages in Gmail, even messages sent to your old e-mail address. They will appear in your Gmail in-box. When your replies and new messages, they will appear to be from either your old address or your new address, as you wish.
You can have the best of both worlds: simultaneous access to your old in-box messages and to Gmail, with all messages appearing in Gmail's user-friendly and nearly spam-free in-box. You can use the two e-mail addresses in parallel for months or even for years, if you wish. There is no need for an abrupt change. You will find it easier to migrate to a new e-mail address when the change is made over a period of years, not days. The process for handling two, three, or more e-mail addresses is simple with Google's Gmail.
If you wish, you can continue to use your old email address for months or even years while you are simultaneously experimenting with the Gmail service. There is no need to abruptly switch email addresses, you can make the transition whenever you are ready. In fact, perhaps you will decide to never make the switch. Using the free Gmail service in parallel with an older email service still provides numerous benefits, including better spam filtering, archiving of several years' of messages, excellent mail filters, and an email backup service ready for use at any time you might need it in the future.
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