Switching to Fastmail

Last year, I switched my primary email account away from Gmail to Fastmail. I’m very happy that I did.

Last year, I switched my primary email account away from Gmail. I’d been considering making this change for some time, and I’m very glad I finally did it.

Why switch?

I was increasingly bothered by Google storing all of my emails, which contain so much personal information. I didn’t want adverts to be pushed at me alongside my email. And for a service like email, I feel better if I can pay for it to support the provider through a revenue system that isn’t targetted ads.

Also, I use custom domains for my email, and setting that up with Gmail on iOS and macOS has always been a pain. In third party apps like Outlook you can add aliases, but the system mail apps can be tricky. And even if you do get it configured, it’s often added to the email header in a way that makes it clear it’s being sent on behalf of your @gmail.com address. I want to own my email address!

Enter Fastmail

I didn’t really research many options when I chose a provider. I’d heard great things about Fastmail, so that was the first and only place I went.

Fastmail is an independent Australian company that simply offers email services in exchange for money. This is great! It means they’re focused on running the service and making it better in order to keep receiving more money and provide a better service for their users. They’re big on open source and open standards – they just helped with the JMAP specification to replace IMAP, which enables them to provide a more modern email experience.

I really like their straightforward core values: their customers are customers, not a product; your data belongs to you; they’ll look after your data; and they’ll contribute to open source and improving email for everyone.

The Service

The first thing I was struck by was the quality of their experiences. Both their web and mobile apps offer a really clean user interface, and wow is it fast. They really earn their title. It feels to me, in a good way, like the ‘old’ internet, before everything was built on top of teetering piles of JavaScript. Pages load so quickly that they feel like static web pages. The UI is uncluttered, functional, easy to use, and very responsive. Through their work on the JMAP standard, they’ve recently added nice-to-have features like ‘undo send’ and snoozing emails.

I was also very surprised by their mobile apps. I’m an iOS app developer and an app snob, and if I’m honest I tend to look down on ‘non-native’ apps that use web technologies. I’m almost certain that Fastmail’s app isn’t native (it doesn’t feel native), but I really like it. It’s fast and clean and just works. It also offers one of my favourite features for any email client: I have the options to both archive or delete any given message. Many apps only give you one or the other of those options at a time.

The app also provides push notifications, and they’re incredibly fast. There have been numerous occasions where both my wife and I have been sent an email, and the Fastmail app will tell me about it tens of seconds before my wife’s Gmail app does.

Migrating to Fastmail

The process of migrating over to Fastmail was very simple. They have a migration tool where you can simply enter the credentials for your existing email service. They then begin importing all your emails into the correct folders, and they’ll let you know when it’s finished.

They also offer helpful guides to configuring your DNS settings to point your MX records to their mail servers, if you wish to do so.

No regrets

I’d recommend Fastmail in an instant to anybody who wants ownership of their own email. I feel like I am now in control of my own data. I’m also able to configure things like custom domains and spam filtering however I like.

I’d love to take this further by also moving away from Google for web search, but I’ve still yet to encounter another search provider that gives me the results I want to see. Last time I tried, Duck Duck Go still wasn’t there yet and I’d regularly have to go back to Google to find what I needed. For now, I perform most of my searches in a private browsing instance.

5 thoughts on “Switching to Fastmail”

  1. You know… I’ve been bouncing back and forth with Fastmail:

    A. Google has an entire team dedicated to SPAM.
    B. And there’s yet another team dedicated to security: antivirus, hacking, etc.

    On top of this, I noticed that I’ve been using email for notification, authentication and… receiving invoices.

    Not long ago I used to mail friends. But nowadays whatsapp, iMessage and Telegram kinda changed all the things.

    Do you still use email that much? Would you still switch from a grandfathered Google Apps account? (Free 4 Life)

    1. Exactly my thinking. I’ve used Fastmail, and while I think it’s the absolute best -especially when you are in the apple ecosystem-, it’s an overkill for my email needs.

  2. I’m looking at movin g over myself and my customers. But what about Gmail “Categories” like Updates, Promotion, Social etc? These are neithere folders nor labels- they seem to be unique to Gmail? Some of my customers have grown to like then- what happens to emails in these Categories when you migrate to Fastmail and is there anyway to emulate them on Fastmail?

    1. As far as I can see, these don’t migrate over to Fastmail as they’re just filters on the standard Inbox view – as you said, they’re not folders or labels. There’s also no equivalent that I know of in Fastmail.

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