Thinking of leaving GMail

April 29, 2012

in Geek stuff, Internet matters, Law, Rants, Writing

I am thinking seriously about leaving GMail, despite how the email service itself has been extremely valuable to me. This is because of the following:

1) Irritating interface changes

GMail now has two interfaces. There is a maddening ‘modern’ interface that is full of elements that change shapes and sizes annoyingly. Anywhere you might enter text is likely to annoy you with pop-up ‘autocomplete’ suggestions and the chat system built into GMail has been rendered too annoying to use by integrating it into a left sidebar where elements change shape and size for no good reason.

The ‘Invite a friend’ element in the left toolbar breaks all the rules of good design. It’s a button that serves the purposes of Google, not the user. It is prominently placed even though it is never used. Worst of all, it moves and changes shape when you put the cursor near it. I wish I had some kind of supernatural geekish power to blast it out of existence, and yet it is always there annoying me, taking up space, and being a source of distraction.

I want an interface where things stay still! And where I am not being constantly distracted from the thinking I am trying to do.

There is still a ‘basic HTML’ interface, but some of its behaviours are even more annoying. It will still autocomplete email addresses, for instance, but it doesn’t use my whole contact list. It seems to be a random subset of the much-lesser-used contacts within that list. It is also very awkward to file emails into labels using the basic interface, and to deal with archiving messages.

2) Pimping Google+

I hate Google+ and I will never join. Despite that, Google is constantly trying to force me to join or trick me into joining. In the top left corner of both the GMail web interface and the mobile interface there is always a link to join Google+. I frequently click it accidentally, and that simple accidental act has sometimes caused Google to actually create a Google+ account for me, which I then had to delete.

I wish there was a ‘Never tell me about Google+ again’ button somewhere within Google’s settings. I could click it once and stop being annoyed several times a day by solicitations from the unwanted service.

3) I trust Google less and less with my data

I have written before about how sensitive some of the data held by Google is. “Don’t be evil” is a basic standard they need to meet – not a lofty goal for which they should be praised.

It’s not especially clear to me that Google is living up to its own standards. Even if they are, telecommunications law in Canada and the United States seems to have developed rather perversely in recent years, with governments submitting illegal requests to perform unwarranted searches on personal information and large telecommunication companies complying in secret.

Google probably isn’t unusual in terms of the degree to which it complies with such requests, but it is unusual in terms of the vastness of the dataset they have on users. Potentially, this includes everything from their physical location history (Google Latitude) to their web search history to every email they have sent or received since joining GMail.

Using Google’s services involves putting a lot of sensitive eggs into a basket that may not be especially well protected.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex April 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Which email provider would you consider as an appropriate alternative?

Milan April 29, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I think I would have to host it myself.

Already, most of my email gets sent to my address, from which they are forwarded to my GMail account.

I could host my own mailserver on, and access it either through a web interface or through IMAP.

Milan April 29, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Other people who hate autocomplete may be happy to learn that the Google search engine can still be used without it, as long as you access it through:

. April 29, 2012 at 1:56 pm

The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry)

In the beginning, the World Wide Web was exciting and open to the point of anarchy, a vast and intimidating repository of unindexed confusion. Into this creative chaos came Google with its dazzling mission – “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible” – and its much-quoted motto, “Don’t be evil”. In this provocative book, Siva Vaidhyanathan examines the ways we have used and embraced Google – and the growing resistance to its expansion across the globe. He exposes the dark side of our Google fantasies, raising red flags about issues of intellectual property and the much-touted Google Book Search. He assesses Google’s global impact, particularly in China, and explains the insidious effect of Googlization on the way we think. Finally, Vaidhyanathan proposes the construction of an Internet ecosystem designed to benefit the whole world and keep one brilliant and powerful company from falling into the “evil” it pledged to avoid.

Norm Farrell April 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I suspect many people share your view. Another frustration with Google is its habit of making changes without explanation or notice. Something that may have worked for years suddenly stops working but Google won’t admit problems result from changes they made without notice. They don’t admit they caused a problem and if or when a solution can be expected.

In Blogger or Ad-Sense, they might terminate an account based on alleged violations of TOS but they will never explain and “appeals” are rejected by the same robots that sensed a violation. The victimized user has no recourse or ability to dispute Google’s suppositions. Just try to find contact information that puts you in touch with a human being at Google.

I was an early user of Google, in the days when it aimed to do no evil. Now it has become just another tax avoiding giant corporation that follows its own rules. I’m actively looking for a change.

Lynn May 7, 2012 at 11:32 am

Interesting. I use gmail via Thunderbird – all my gmail mail is downloaded into Thunderbird and removed from the server upon download. I don’t even know what the gmail interface looks like. Maybe that could be a short-term fix for you.

If you are experimenting with other email providers I’d love to hear the results.

Anon May 7, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Are you sure Google actually deletes it? Or might they keep it to target ads better, or serve other purposes of their own?

Also, if you aren’t using the search or storage capabilities, why use GMail at all?

. May 7, 2012 at 7:55 pm

If you do not want the content of your e-mail messages examined or analyzed at all, you may want to consider lesser-known free services like HushMail, RiseUp and Zoho, which promote no-snooping policies. Or register your own domain with an associated e-mail address through services like Hover or BlueHost, which cost $55 to $85 a year. You get not only the company’s assurance of privacy but also an address unlike anyone else’s, like

Or you can forgo trusting others with your e-mail correspondence altogether and set up your own mail server. It is an option that is not just for the paranoid, according to Sam Harrelson, a middle-school teacher and self-described technology aficionado in Asheville, N.C., who switched to using his own mail server this year using a $49.99 OS X Server and $30 SpamSieve software to eliminate junk mail.

. June 2, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Easy email migration tool


MigrationWiz operates via the “cloud.” They connect directly to your old email (source) and your new (destination) email in order to transfer all your data. MigrationWiz charges on a low per-mailbox fee (between $10 and $12 depending on how much data you have). If you have one mailbox to migrate, you pay for one. If you have 5,000 mailboxes (they migrate entire companies), you pay for 5,000 (but I think they offer volume discounts). So now I’ve migrated my old school emails and old work emails (after changing jobs) to something I have access to more permanently. I’ve also helped friends use it. I wish I had known about MigrationWiz earlier and not wasted all the time on research.

Milan July 2, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I don’t think I can ever actually leave GMail.

Without GMail filters, my email would be totally incomprehensible. It’s pretty much essential that emails related to various discussion lists, mailing lists, and clubs get automatically filed into folders. Otherwise, I would have a new message in my inbox every couple of minutes.

ann December 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I’ve left gmail entirely. Mostly because of their constant asking for my private telephone number. I do not understand why anyone would give this information to google.

The new thing they started asking for is people credit card numbers! That’s right. If you lose access to your account google won’t let you have access again even if you answer all their questions unless you give them your credit card number. A blind person can see where this is all heading. Anyone who keeps their gmail is kinda stupid as far as I’m concerned.

Milan December 26, 2012 at 7:29 pm

They just want your telephone number as a way for you to recover your account if someone steals it, which is pretty reasonable given how often that happens.

I trust Google with information that is way more sensitive than my credit card number or telephone number.

. December 26, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Op-ed—A plea to Google: Protect our e-mail privacy

Rolling out strong encryption for Gmail would be a win-win situation for Google.

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