Verizon has begun warning customers that it’s getting out of the email game and that you need to act soon if you want to keep your Verizon.net email address.
One alternative is to actually keep that Verizon.net address, but have Verizon acquisition AOL manage it for you. So your address would be yourname@Verizon.net on the surface, but AOL underneath due to Verizon ending its email service. (See also: “How to keep your Verizon email account from being killed off”)
But if this whole situation might be prompting you to make a clean break from your carrier’s email system, here are a few free messaging services that you might want to consider, some more obvious than others. I’ve taken a fresh spin through each of the email systems to collect the latest info on them, figuring at least a good chunk of the 4.5 million email accounts controlled by Verizon will be moving elsewhere sooner than later.
Can more than a billion users — well, many of those users have multiple accounts — be wrong? Maybe, though many Gmail users are willing to put up with the bad (personalized ads here and there) for the good (reliable service, free).
(See also: “Kicking Google out of my Life”)
Some of the ads, at least on the surface, are pretty unobtrusive. Under Gmail’s newish tabs structure, your messages will be filtered into categories such as Primary, Social and Promotions, with email-like ads appearing at the stop of the Promotions message inbox.
One thing to consider if starting a new Gmail account or switching over to Gmail as your primary account, is to explore Inbox by Gmail, a streamlined, cleaner interface that’s been generally available for 2 years now. I haven’t been adventurous enough to use it on my main Gmail account but have changed to it one of my lesser used accounts, and it’s not bad. It bundles related messages and highlights keywords that can help grab your attention.
Gmail features custom themes, lets you view attachments from within Gmail, and of course you get access to numerous other services from your Google account. Google also makes it pretty simple to switch between Gmail accounts.
While Gmail is free for individuals, you can upgrade to a work version for a price. Gmail comes with 15GB of storage (shared with Drive and Photos) and there are sometimes ways to add 2G free, such as by conducting a security check at the start of February for the made-up Safer Internet Day. You can jack it up to 100GB for $20 a year.
Google provides some support for those shifting to Gmail here.
I seriously hesitated putting Yahoo Mail on this list in light of the huge breaches the company has experienced in recent years as well as reports of overly aggressive email scanning on behalf of the U.S. government. But given that Verizon is buying Yahoo in a deal expected to close this quarter, Verizon is going >to have yet another messaging system to deal with, so it’s possible that a Verizon.net-to-Yahoo Mail transition could even make the most sense.
Yahoo Mail turns 20 this year, and using a yahoo.com address definitely has an old school feel about it even though the mail system itself works just fine and is regularly updated with new features for the more than 225 million active users often cited. Among the new features, improved search for keywords on mobile devices in which results are both highlighted and put in reverse chronological order. What’s more, Yahoo Mail works both with other Yahoo services like Flickr, Tumblr and maybe other things that end with e-less “r”s, as well as with other email services such as Gmail.
One big way in which Yahoo Mail differs from Gmail is that Yahoo offers 1TB of free storage across its services (it used to offer unlimited storage, but thought 1TB was better from a marketing angle).
By default, Yahoo Mail comes with personalized ads, but you can opt out if you’re willing to pay $10 a year.
And back to those mega-security breaches, Yahoo has added a password-free option for accessing its services called Account Key that forces you to physically do something to prove you are you before being allowed in.
Zoho (whose collaboration tools we used to use here at Network World) offers free personal and business messaging for up to 50 users and emphasizes that it won’t push any ads, including creepy ones that know what too much about you, into your messaging environment.
“At Zoho, we value user data and privacy. We never display ads, even in our free plans, and your email exchanges are never scanned for keywords,” the un-Google and un-Yahoo company stresses when you sign up.
Zoho will, however, nudge you to sign up for some of its paid services, such as SalesIQ, for tracking and converting website visitors into paying customers. But you do get services beyond email, including chat, spreadsheets, presentations and word processing. Zoho Mail features, with an eye toward collaborating with colleagues, include the ability to share messages via social media-like streams and the ability to share entire email folders. For those using Zoho for business messaging, the cloud-based service provides extensive administration tools.
Zoho, which provides 5GB per user combined storage across its services, offers a range of pricing plans going from free to $8 per user per month that ratchets per-user storage up to 1TB.
Zoho offers guidance here on migrating to its messaging and workplace services.
Verizon’s current Verizon.net-to-AOL Mail is pretty straightforward when you compare it with anything having to do with Microsoft Mail, I mean, Hotmail, I mean Live Mail, I mean Outlook.com (i.e., Outlook Mail). Then again, that can happen when your company has been around for years.
Microsoft seems to have settled for now on steering people to its cloud-based Outlook.com mail and calendaring service as a free offering with 5GB of storage across its services. You can use Outlook.com even if you’re one of the few without a Windows Phone… so yes, Android and iOS apps are available.
Outlook includes slick features such as Sweep for getting rid of bunches of messages at once and Unsubscribe for easily ditching messages from specific sources. Outlook Add-ins let you integrate Yelp, Uber and other apps into your Outlook.com view.
You’ll get ads alongside your email, unless you want to shell out $20 to start a Premium account (custom domains and more), and you’ll get access to free Skype, Office Online and other services that provide the basics but not as much as you’d get with a paid Office 365 subscription.