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Why (and how) I'm saying goodbye to Gmail

Joe Kissell | Nov. 1, 2013
Outages. Security issues. And now glitches in Mavericks Mail. If you're feeling done with Gmail, here's how to switch to another email service.

It was great while it lasted, but I finally broke up with Gmail. Though I had relied on Google's popular email service for years, my level of satisfaction had been dropping steadily for a while, and changes in the Mavericks version of Mail (about which I've ranted at some length) were the last straw. Now I'm returning to a good old-fashioned IMAP server, and I'm not looking back.

Lots of people are blissfully content with Gmail. If you're one of them, far be it from me to change your mind. But I want to tell you what I found problematic about Gmail--and exactly what I did about it.

What's wrong with Gmail

Gmail does a great job of filtering spam and searching for content, and Google offers Gmail users a generous 15GB of free storage space (shared with other Google services). If you want to use your own domain name with your Gmail account (a necessity for me), you can sign up for Google Apps for Business, which starts at $5 per month per user and includes various additional features. At one time Google offered a free edition of Google Apps, and users like me who signed up while it was still free got to keep their accounts, for up to 10 users, at no charge. All in all, a pretty sweet deal.

Many people who've been turning away from Gmail these days cite privacy as their main concern, but that was a comparatively minor issue for me. I was never greatly troubled by Google's use of keyword scanning to display targeted ads; as for the reports of government backdoors into Google's data, I've always assumed that I have to encrypt email myself if I want to keep it completely private.

My main gripes were more practical. For example:

Outages: Several extended, widespread Gmail outages have occurred in the past few years, leaving me without email access at critical times.

Nonstandard handling of messages: Many people swear by Gmail's idiosyncratic approach to processing and labeling email, but it didn't suit my needs. Instead, I always wanted Gmail to work like a conventional IMAP server. Even though you can access Gmail via IMAP, Gmail's IMAP implementation is highly nonstandard--and I could never achieve exactly the behavior I wanted.

Limits on simultaneous IMAP connections: Gmail limits the number of simultaneous IMAP connections to 10, which seems like a reasonable number--except that a single copy of Apple Mail uses several connections at once. As a result, I couldn't have Mail open and connected to my Gmail account on all of my Macs and iOS devices at the same time; when I connected to more than three devices (give or take), I'd start getting error messages.


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