Or, "How Google Is Taking Over The World."
Over the last eight or nine years, I've become at home with two artifacts of modern life which are at the same time constant (in certain societies) and fleeting: email addresses and mobile phone numbers.
Every now and then I get a text message from a friend who is changing their mobile phone number. I don't understand this. Yes, when you get a new contract (say with a different service provider) you're given a new number, but transferring your old one is easy to do. I've had the same number through about eight years and changed operator at least five times in that period. Back then (oh, so long ago!) keeping your number cost 35 quid and took filling in a form and waiting weeks. Now it's free, takes a phone call and maybe two minutes with a web form, and the actual behind-the-scenes work requires a reliable 7 day wait. Easy.
That's not what I'm here to talk about. Let's talk email.
I got my first email address when I was 17, so that'd actually be ten years ago. It was a Hotmail address I set up in school before we had the InterWeb at home. I actually still use it as my MSN ID, but haven't picked up email at it in years. Then I had a couple of different ISP addresses before I got annoyed with the constant changing and went to Bigfoot. That one still works, too, and will even get to me. But then I landed on my perfect solution: my own domain name, with email at it. (The domain is, of course, twoshoes.org.uk, currently waiting for me to decide what to do with it, since all the action is here. It was a birthday present from my wife. How cool is that?)
I landed on that just as domain names were getting cheap, and reliable hosting was equally becoming an economic possibility. The beauty is that since then I've changed host (the behind-the-scenes bit that keeps the website and so on available, although I've been with the current one for several years now as they are good) a few times, I own the address and take it with me and keep it going just the same.
Now I'm coming full-circle, though. My current host is great, but I'm trialling elsewhere for the email needs. The same address still works, but now I'm using Google Apps to run it on the Gmail platform. This comes down to the way I use it: I access that address in at least five different ways (desktops at home and work, laptop, phone and via the web elsewhere), which can be a pain to keep all the inboxes in sync. The ideal solution would be to maintain everything on the server (technically, using IMAP, if you must know), but since I have thousands of emails dragging around behind me, and since server space is expensive, I've just gone with downloading everything everywhere and living with out-of-sync inboxes.
Then Google announced IMAP functionality in their free Gmail service (with it's huge amount of disk space available to each account) and I did a little geeky dance — inside of course. It's important to me to keep my existing address, and Google Apps lets me do just that. Circle complete: my email is now back with a third-party email provider, but on my terms at my address of choice.
The complication is that I want my address on Gmail, but to leave the others on my domain (my wife, my dad, one or two others) on the existing server. It can be done, but it's slightly complicated and is giving me headaches. (And Google charge a little for the privilege. Not much, especially considering the 25GB of disk space you then get, but a little.) I have high hopes, but will hold off offering approval until I'm convinced all is working as it should for everyone on the domain.
Between this and my recent migration to Google Reader (for the same multiple device reasons), Google seems to be gaining a lot of power over me. Oh dear.