Why we should start thinking about a GMail exit strategy

I love GMail, or at least used to. But I think we should start thinking about dumping GMail in favour of something else—I don’t know what that thing is, but we must move.

GMail’s appeal is its accurate spam filtering, and that any spam you still get is just put into a special Spam folder instead of being rejected outright. Or so they claim, or so are things used to be. As I found out a few years ago, GMail actually does email blacklisting (in a particularly clueless way, I might add) and worse, GMail’s spam filtering accuracy has been dropping significantly since a few months ago, almost as if Google is trying to make its spam prediction as unreliable as their automatic labels—as if Google’s true goal were to provide buggy, unreliable software.

How bad is it? Two days ago a whopping 31 pieces of legitimate email were erroneously marked as “phishing” (not just “spam”), and it takes almost 100 clicks to tell Google that these are neither phishing nor spam; all the while the actual number of spams received two days ago was in fact zero. You can see why I often don’t bother using the Mark as non-phishing command any more, and increasingly I don’t even bother pushing the Non-spam button any more. Marking them non-spam or non-phishing is getting too time consuming and the act doesn’t seem to actually achieve anything; Google still screws up at least a dozen times a day, every single day.

Worse, today I checked my spam folder and noticed something that not only is clearly legitimate, but that I had manually applied a tag to it. Which means that when I saw the mail two days ago it was in my inbox, but today it has mysteriously been moved to the “spam” box.

Read this: Your spam box is just another inbox. It is possible to receive dozens of legitimate—even important—emails in your so-called spam box. I have received email from the government in my “spam” box, some even marked as “phishing”.

Read this: Having received an email in your inbox is no guarantee that it will stay in your inbox. Neither is tagging it. Nor is archiving it. Anything can suddenly be retroactively considered spam, even phishing, all on the whims of mighty but flimsy Google.

GMail is my main email provider, my university has switched to GMail a few years ago, and a professional organization I belong to has switched to GMail a few months ago; but I think relying on GMail is increasingly a mistake that we will have to correct soon. GMail has become far too unreliable even for personal use; we must find a GMail exit strategy before all our important emails disappear into the so-called spam box.