Boris Smus

interaction engineering

Never delete your gmail account

Since moving to the states, I have had nothing but grief from the .ca at the end of my all-purpose email address. Even in Canada, people would constantly confuse for, resulting in email bounces. To resolve this problem once and for all, I decided to switch to Gmail like all the cool kids. I registered boris.smus long ago out but never used it. The first thing I did was try to link my to the Gmail. When I couldn't figure out how to do that, I deleted my Gmail account in order to re-create a new pre-linked account with the same name. Sounds innocent enough, right?

Wrong! Google has an uncharacteristically evil account deletion policy which is not at all clearly communicated. The deletion page simply says:

You're trying to delete your Google Account that provides access to the Google products listed below. Please select each checkbox to confirm you fully understand that you'll no longer be able to use any of these products and all information associated with them, and that your account will be lost.

Meanwhile, the F.A.Q. reads:

If you use Gmail with your account, you'll no longer be able to access that email. You'll also be unable to reuse your Gmail username.

Long story short, I tried everything in my power to recover the old username. I found handfuls of frustrated users in the same position as me; some having deleted their account by accident, others victims of pranks and identity theft. I asked on official and unofficial Gmail forums, and even consulted with my Googler friends, all to no avail. After mourning the loss of, it was time to take a critical look at Google's email offerings.

I enjoy Gmail's webmail client very much. It's a fast, intuitive, search and tag based model with virtually unlimited mailbox storage. In terms of usability, however, I much prefer Mail on Mac. On the iPhone, the native Mail client is far superior to the mobile web Gmail client. Fortunately, Google provides SMTP and IMAP services to fill this need. Sadly, both of these services are plagued with issues.

I recently sent an email which had roughly 50 bcc recipients. Google's SMTP server thought I was a spammer and banned me, despite my having authenticated via SSL. Perhaps sending email to 50 people is slightly unusual. Still, I would expect my mail gateway to be capable of performing such a 'feat'.

The way the Google IMAP maps directories is fundamentally incompatible with expectations. Further, the IMAP server has a limit of 10 simultaneous connections, which often causes the connection threshold to be reached with just two connected clients. Additionally, the IMAP server is often down; I wish I had some data to support that, but I don't.

When I finally settled on, I had a decision to make: do I use Google Apps or Webfaction for email? I quite like Webfaction, and, perhaps irrationally, trust them more than Google with my private data. With the above limitations of Gmail in mind, I did not hesitate to choose Webfaction. I still miss having a though. What's with the oddly draconian account deletion rules?