Should There Be Mandatory Email Address Portability?

from the nope dept

Apparently someone has filed a petition with the FCC to try to have the FCC require email address portability. The idea is that, if you were to change email providers, the old provider would be required to forward your email to a new account. If you go to the link above, Declan McCullough points out seven reasons why it’s dumb to mandate this (in part because this is way outside the FCC’s scope of authority). However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea for email providers to offer that service themselves as a differentiator. In the meantime, this doesn’t seem like much of a problem for most people. Either they have their own domains or they do a pretty good job of informing anyone who matters whenever they change email addresses.

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Comments on “Should There Be Mandatory Email Address Portability?”

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Witty Nickname says:

2 other problems

If I switch email addresses it is usually becauseone address gets overloaded with SPAM. I typically don’t want those e-mails anyway.

Also, would it be required for employers? My last job was at a bank, whenever someone left we forwarded that person’s e-mail to their replacement. I would be irate if I emailed my personal banker, and it turns out they had been fired a week before then they had all my account numbers right there in front of them.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

God, get a third party email

Arguing that you should be able to keep your email after moving to a new ISP is like arguing you should be able to keep your same address after moving to a new house. Complete nonsense.

As others have said, get a third party email. It’s real simple. I haven’t used an ISP’s email ever. And I’ve been online since 1994.

Like a Sturgeon says:

Re: God, get a third party email

>Arguing that you should be able to keep your email after moving to a new ISP is
> like arguing you should be able to keep your same address after moving to a
> new house. Complete nonsense.

Actually – you brush up against what “should be” an industry practice:

Like the United States Post Office, someone who moves should be allowed to ELECT to have their mail forwarded for a set amount of time. Since it does consume resources at the “old” address/service, it wouldn’t be in perpetuity, but would go far in being a courtesy service. Similarly, if it is elective, then someone changing email accounts due to spam-overload doesn’t have to worry about the spam being forwarded.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

E-Mail Stupidity

I’m another one of those people who have had an E-Mail address since the early 90’s. I have had pay addresses, free addresses, an address that my dad set up on his server so I didn’t have to pay. I’ve gone from the degrading to the hip new The people that would push this kind of bill would be the same people who cash a $3000 check from someone you don’t know to get $1,000,000 from that same unknown person.

I’m saying that this person doesn’t understand that most of the time you switch your E-Mail to get away from spam and scams.

aspir8or (user link) says:

There are better ways

and one of them is open-id. I think everybody should eventually get an open-id which they update as they change providers. Email going to a dead address should be routed to an open-id server to check for new address correlating to the open-id of the old address. If none is found, it goes into a waiting pool until the recipient uses the open-id, when the server replies with a mail waiting message. It sounds like a lot of extra work, but the concept is simple and if open-id is going to become ubiquitious (which is still doubtful), why not get as many uses out of it as possible?

Meoip says:

better idea

the FCC should ban ISP email addresses and other places that force you to use a given email. I don’t want a yahoo address just so ATT can send me junk I don’t care about, I’m using Gmail and I want them to email me there. I want my professors to send email to my Gmail I don’t want to check a .edu account just in case they bother to email me. maybe if we stopped using these forced email tactics this wouldn’t be an issue.

Matt Thompson says:

GMail - problem solved

Don’t use yahoo and other spam generators. Since they send their own spam to your address.

Just go get a GMail account. It is fast, easy, free, huge storage, they have extensions to turn it into a virtual online hard drive for storing things.

You can access it anywhere you have a web browser.

Spam filters on it work REALLY well.

You can have it send emails to your Outlook or Outlook Express with a few simple adjustments – And they walk you through it, so it even helps the PEBKAC crew get it done.

Simple – never have to drop the 500 emails of “Hi, my email address has changed to: ” junk again!

Do no evil says:

Re: GMail - problem solved

Unfortunately – then all of your correspondence is now searchable and a permanent part of the Google empire. When the NS/CI/ATFBI comes knocking, and Google is (over)run by shareholders instead of ethics, then all your email belongs to them. And if you use the google services that catalog and retain all your web searches, then hope like hell you weren’t on a page that was hacked and contained secret embedded messages and have a “suspicious” family name.

But until then, enjoy the services of the borg.

Lowestman says:

What if the domain is expried that the email went thru, is it then the responsiblity of the ISP to maintain dead domains, why should they have to incur the cost of renewing domains and space on their mail/web servers for people who obviously want a change. If you leave your job that is a sign that you are breaking your relationship to the establishment, why should that establishment be penalized for this?

So in short, the person who filed this complaint is an idiot.

Richard Ahlquist (profile) says:

Will NEVER happen..

And here is why. I did this for my in-laws who kept constantly changing dialup providers, since I own a few domains I setup addresses for them to forward to their ISP DuJour. Worked fine until recently when AT&T took over bellsouth. All of the sudden emails we beign bounced back to my server, come to find out AT&T has implemented HARSH spam policies. Basically you can check my thread on DSLReports ( ) for details but they told me that the amount of spam being forwarded to the in-laws @bellsouth accounts was too high and unless I started to filter them in my email server they would continue to automatically throw me on their blocked server list.

Now mind you I wasnt running an open relay, these are their legitimate emails that AT&T is somehow determining are spam. They are saying as high as 90+% of the email being forwarded was spam. My in-laws got on average 100 emails a day. Big deal. I think man in the middle email filtering is akin to Cliff Claven the postal carrier throwing out all bulk postage email because it could be junk mail, not always an accurate thing, and most spam filtering is subject to the same possible errors.

So if email portability happened all the isp’s would likely go the way of AT&T and just blockade servers that forwarded ‘ported’ email accounts that had a high spam ratio(still dont know what AT&T does to monitor the spammyness of an email).

Anonymous Coward says:

HECK NO!!! I think email service should be completely separated from the ISPs. The ISPs should team with up with free email providers like Google, providing their customers with instructions on how to setup gmail addresses. That way, if the ISP dies or the person moves or switches, they won’t have to bother changing their email address. When you sign up for new internet service, you can specify if you already have an email address or if you need assistance setting one up. I know it would sure be a lot less headache for ISPs if they didn’t have to deal with email problems.

Aaron *Brother Head* Moss (user link) says:

Re: Re:

The problem with this is, if their e-mail is having problems, 9 times out of 10, the customer is going to call the ISP (who won’t be able to help them with a Gmail issue).
But again, 9 times out of time (maybe 7/10) the customer won’t understand this and demand help.

I know this from personal experience (working at an ISP for 9+ years).

Peet McKimmie (profile) says:

Even *paid* accounts can die...

I paid for a number of email addresses for over seven years. I was perfectly happy to keep paying them. But…

They were bought over by, and announced that all payments in future had to be through a physical cheque or postal order, “with a note attached saying which account was being renewed”, posted to a London address. (!!!)

They had no means of accepting electronic payments. I’m registered disabled and have no current cheque book. I certainly have no intention of crossing town to stand in a long queue to buy a postal order, just to keep a company that appears to be circling the drain afloat.

I emailed their support site and explained this. They emailed me back and said that they would, as a “gesture of goodwill”, extend my account by two months until they could accept electronic payments. Then they closed all their incoming email addresses, (they never *did* have a ‘phone number) emailed a sequence of final demands for a physical payment and a week later closed my account.

That killed off three email addresses I used regularly, and about a dozen I used occasionally. Oh and two-thirds of a box of “calling cards”.

Now their website says “There’s a sparkling new under way!” – yeah, right.

I suppose the point of this rant is that even when you *pay* for a long-established account, circumstances can force you to lose it.

Alejandro Rivero says:

c’mon, there are no real overhead, it should be possible to use a protocol to inform about redirects without actually exchanging the whole message. HTTP redirect works nicely for webpages, and EMAIL redirect, aka MX, is implemented at the @host level in the DNS (yep guys, the email service is at the DNS level). The implementation at level of user@ for a specific host could be supported easily, but receiving filters should account for it too (to implement spam filtering of old addresses, for instance).

Chris Maresca (user link) says:

Re: Re:

That’s not quite right. DNS’s and MX records have no idea about users, only mail servers servicing particular hosts or domains.

Right now, there is no way to redirect mail at the MX level. Sure, you could point the MX record at a different server, but the new receiving mail server would have to be informed that it should now accept mail for x domain. Not doing that would create a loop….

And it would forward ALL the mail from x domain to this new server, not just one user. Basically, MX records only affect stuff to the right of the @ sign…

A good discussion of MX records is available here:


Inc says:

They should stop worrying about stupid crap like this that would over load a already burdened email system. They should focus on stopping the money trail that encourages spammers in the first place. The gov put a damper on online gambling pretty damn fast that way why not spam. See how fast Viagra cracks down on people selling their wares and if they don’t they are not protecting their trademark and should lose it.

John (user link) says:

Yah but...

All of the reasons this is unnecessary are excellent… however, they assume a certain level of knowledge. Which, I admit, is not high. But those of us who are very tech literate forget that others are not. I just went through this with my dad; we’re getting him off of AOL and onto DSL at last, and I helped him set up a Gmail address. The concept of the email address being independent of a service provider was not really clear to him. And this is a guy who spent his career as a (pre-Internet) technical professional.

Given the important of email, I actually think some kind of equivalent to the post office forwarding – 6 months for free – isn’t a bad idea.

Pendrake says:


Once upon a time, there was a site that focused on email portability… They allowed you to sign up for an account then you just forward the emails off to where ever you want.

They even allowed you to filter emails to separate accounts… send multiple copies to separate account, pretty much anything you wanted to do with emails, you could…

Then they started to charge for the ‘Advanced services’… then they started to limit the free services (such as only X emails will be forwarded…) My old account still forwards correctly to my gmail account… but I nolonger give it out, I just use my gmail for my main account, and my hotmail for my spam account.

JustSaying says:

“Also, would it be required for employers?”

I would hope not, since the email address, the domain and the information in the email are owned by the employer, not the employee. But who knows when the feds get involved. Your example of a bank is the perfect reason why this should never happen.


“c’mon, there are no real overhead, it should be possible to use a protocol to inform about redirects without actually exchanging the whole message. HTTP redirect works nicely for webpages, and EMAIL redirect, aka MX, is implemented at the @host level in the DNS (yep guys, the email service is at the DNS level). The implementation at level of user@ for a specific host could be supported easily”

The devil is in the details. Please explain how you would do this without requiring a re-write of the SMTP RFC’s and updates/upgrades to every MTA in the world. And also how you are going to get the whole world to do this at once. I really want to hear how user@ is going to be ‘supported easily’ at the DNS/MX level.

Anonymous Coward says:

As people have already pointed out, you can buy and control your own e-mail address (by buying a domain) which you can do whatever you want with. You can’t buy a phone number.

And while Gmail/Yahoo/etc accounts may provide more autonomy than ISP accounts they still fall well short of owning your own domain. For something as important as e-mail people should make the effort to retain as much control as possible.

Chris Maresca (user link) says:

I solved this 12 years ago...

… by buying a domain. It makes it a lot easier to implement ‘portability’. In the old days, the mail server was hanging of a dialup connection with a fixed IP, but now that hosting has gotten so cheap, I just use a hosting provider.

More expensive than Gmail or another free service, but I have 500gb of space and 12+ years of archived email available, not to mention files, calendaring and other groupware capabilities. And it’s all under my control (and only my control).


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