Up until this weekend my mail, calendar and contacts services were a little disparate:
Now I have all three hosted by FastMail
So why was I using those particular services, and why have I now moved away from them?
I migrated from Gmail to ProtonMail when it was still in beta. As part of the IndieWeb journey I’ve been on since 2014 I’ve been trying to move away from silos and big data as much as is practicable.
I supported the concept of what ProtonMail were doing (and still do), particularly the privacy ethos and the ad / tracking free nature of their offering. From a geek perspective I liked the tech behind the way they secure email at rest and (claim to) never be able to access your emails, though as email is inherently insecure that isn’t what tipped it for me.
Moving away from Gmail meant the ‘trinity’ of email, calendar and contacts being all on the same service was broken. But the change seemed to be low-friction for me, and anyway at that time I was planning to keep calendar and contacts with Google until such time as ProtonMail supported all three (spoiler alert: at the time of writing their contacts support is better but still no calendar)
I did have a few niggles with ProtonMail:
- Contacts support was poor. At that time it was just name + a single email address per contact (e.g. two separate contacts for one person if they had a personal and work email!), and so I had ended up retaining my main contacts list in Gmail and having a duplicate contact list of emails in ProtonMail. This was a real pain to keep in sync.
- Price / value. I don’t mind paying for a service, but having two domains and needing about 15-20 email aliases pushed the price up a bit and I was soon at the limit I felt was value for money. I did feel that paying around US$90 ought to have led to a bit more genorosity. (Everyone has different limits of course.)
- No calendar support.
Like any well-honed silo, the water is warm at Google and so it was with their Calendar. It just works, and the UI is a dream. It had all the functionality and connectivity I wanted, so from that perspective there was no incentive to change (which is why most people won’t, of course). It’s what sits behind it all that is the worry for the #IndieWeb community: ‘you are the product’ and all that!
Moving email away did lead to some friction, as I could no longer directly accept Gmail calendar invites sent to my non-Gmail main email address. Instead I had to either ask people to send invites to my Gmail address (defeating the purpose of moving email away), or do an export of the invite to an *.ics file and then import it into Google Calendar.
My IndieWeb user page tells me that I migrated my contacts to OwnCloud in January 2017 (and then to NextCloud in June).
The main reason I did this was because contacts support in ProtonMail was poor (see above).
OwnCloud/Nextcloud has a contacts app with CardDav support, and so I was able to use that to migrate contacts away from Google and so scratch off one of my #ownyourdata itches. But it didn’t solve the ‘two contact lists’ issue, which I kicked down the path for another day!
I have been happy with this service, and it was only my need to re-unify email, calendar and contacts that led me to leave.
So why FastMail? Aren’t they a silo too?!
I had considered using the NextCloud calendar app instead of Google Calendar, but it was quite slow and not as feature-rich as I wanted. (One showstopper for me was the lack of single-event deletion for repeating events.) So I decided to look for something else that would better meet my overall needs.
At $US50 a year I get all three services I want in one place, with no domain or email alias restrictions. CalDav and CardDav support is built-in so no problems syncing with my mobile devices.
Usability is good: for email and contacts it is better (for me) than ProtonMail / NextCloud respectively.
The changeover was relatively easy to do (the usual tension of waiting for new MX records to propagate across the internet notwithstanding!), and so far I’m happy with my decision.
Early days, though, so let’s see how it goes….