Vanity domain names vs. [email protected]

Scrubbing personal data

I, too have a vanity domain name. But what I do is have my e-mail from the vanity address auto-forwarded to my gmail account (which then automatically labels it). So that way, I do all my work from my gmail account.

I use both. I have my name at Hotmail (10+ year old general spam collector account), gmail (android phones and associated stuff), and my vanity domain. I use the vanity only for real people that I trust. I use Google Apps currently to host it.

What your email address says about your computer skills

That said, I have my own domain primarily for my side business but also use it for personal. I do find it takes longer to communicate to people ( than gmail, but not too bad. I currently have it forwarded to my gmail for ease of use, but I can and have changed that from time to time.

I have both.

Public (shopping sites, etc) email address:
Personal, friends-and-family-only email address:
Somewhat more professional personal address: w/Google Apps
Fresno State alum email address: w/Google Apps (they recently migrated everything from own hosting to GA)
Work address: w/Google Apps

My address used to be on a webhost's mail service, and it was pretty simple to pull down an archive of mail, change the MX records, and sync over the copy of mail to the new Google Apps account over IMAP.

Both, but I'm starting to use my vanity domain more and more. It forwards to my Gmail account anyway, and since Gmail makes it so easy to sort and filter email it doesn't bother me. I also have my personal domain set up to use Google Apps, but I forward it to my actual Gmail account just to make setting up accounts on my phone easier.

I used to have a public account, a personal account, and a professional personal account, but again, Gmail makes it so easy to sort email, I'd rather just work with filters and labels rather than multiple accounts.

From a technical perspective I use both. I can keep both alive and forward emails (what I do now) or approach it however I choose. I think my main worry is if my vanity domain is too difficult for people to remember / write down.

I have had my own domain since 2002. I originally got it because I was changing ISPs frequently and hated what Hotmail and Yahoo Mail offered at that time. I also wanted to experiment with running my own mail server which I did until just a few months ago. I got tired of constantly getting flagged as a spam source because I came from a residential IP address so I switched to Google Apps and pay $50/year for a SpamHero account and get absolutely no spam as a result. I have nothing against Gmail but my personal address is registered in so many places now, I don't see the point in switching, especially when Google Apps gives me all of its best features for free anyway.

That was part of my motivation as well. I got my first vanity domain back in 1998. I did it in part to avoid needing to change my address with websites all the time dependent on my ISP. Maybe I just need an easier to understand domain name.

DSGamer wrote:

Maybe I just need an easier to understand domain name.

I don't know. "owmyf*" seems straightforward enough.

Scrubbing personal data

We have a vanity domain name and create different email addresses for different purposes. Definitely the way to go if you can handle the nerdity required.

Oh, I have a gmail address too... that's the one I use when I register games and whatever other nonsense I want to ignore. It's great for receiving large attachments though, so I use it for that as well.

I use my own domain with per-sender email addresses. All email to my domain is for me -- the "sender" is who it's FROM, not who it's TO. I also implement 'greylisting', which is where the mail server issues a 'retry' error on the first attempt to deliver messages from unknown senders. After a few minutes, it unlocks. Legit senders always retry, usually dozens of times, before giving up, but spammers often try only once. After I've gotten a few messages from a given sender (I think it's three), the greylist unlocks and just lets mail through immediately, rather than requiring several minutes.

Between these two things, I get essentially no spam in my inbox, despite hundreds of spam attempts every day. I'll see maybe four or five spams a year. I did get a burst of it after that email provider was hacked earlier this year, but I just de-whitelisted those addresses, and it immediately stopped. My email now works exactly the way it should; stuff that's in there is stuff I want to read. And if the relationship changes with any particular email address, I can just turn it off.

Thunderbird has a nice feature called 'Manage Identities'. If you need to SEND as a particular address, instead of just receiving mail to that destination, you can add it to your identities. From then on, replying to messages automatically sets the return address appropriately. That means you don't leak your real email address as easily.

The key to handling this approach really well is to never give that real address to anyone. That is, say you're actually delivering everything to '[email protected]'. You never, ever give out the harry.potter address, only aliases pointing to it. If your actual destination address starts getting spammed, you'll have to change your username, rather than just deleting an address, so you don't want to leak that if you can avoid it.

This does add a little overhead when you're setting up an online relationship... you have to at least add the address to your whitelist.

Myself, I do it by editing my Postfix 'virtual' file. It takes me generally about a minute to connect to the mailserver, cd /etc/postfix, vi virtual, edit the new address into the file, 'postmap virtual', 'postfix reload'. There are probably easier ways to do this, but the extra overhead is so minimal, compared with all the typing needed for setting up an account with most places, that I've never bothered to try to automate it in any way.

Setting this kind of system is, however, a big time investment. Ongoing maintenance is pretty minimal, but learning enough DNS and mailserver speak to get this thing up in the first place isn't trivial, and you also need some method of getting the mail out again. (I use dovecot and SSL IMAP, which took a good couple hours to set up the first time I did it. OpenSSL is a disaster of a program from an interface perspective. The 'TinyCA' scripts make it a lot easier to deal with.) You also need to understand the difference between 'mbox' and 'Maildir' formats, and configure Postfix to deliver correctly. (big hint: you want Maildir. Trust me. )

If you have a fair bit of time, you can do this yourself on a VPS somewhere, but if you don't, you might want to look for a pre-rolled solution from someone. Email with unlimited aliases and SSL IMAP access really shouldn't be that hard to find on the cheap. Google itself may offer this service. Regardless of who you choose, because these are open standards, it'll be relatively easy to move to a new provider if the current one gets evil in any way.

For backup, I use a local IMAP server on my network, use Thunderbird to manually move the messages from the external mailserver every once in awhile, and take filesystem backups of my local Maildirs. That'd probably be easy to automate with something like fetchmail, but I've never bothered, because it just doesn't take very long.

Another advantage to copying mail as soon as you can down to a local server is that it's a little harder to get snooped on. Providers have to respond to FBI letters, which are issued very frequently on hunches and with no court oversight at all. If the mail isn't there when they come looking, they can't read it. And if you're running in a VPS, the provider is not going to be scanning your email and trying to market at you based on keywords it sees.

I have SpamAssassin set up get at most one spam message a day. Brightmail is another option, but that has a per-account fee through my current provider. I use my personal account for newsgroup discussions and in other public places so I know it isn't secret.