Last week, I was at lunch with Greg Knauss. While enjoying our delicious In-N-Out burgers, the conversation wandered to email maintenance as can happen with serious geeks. We discussed the subtlety of hosting email and the amount of geek cred each method represented. Talk turned to the choices others make in what email they use and our perception of what that means about them. FYI, an email domain name is the name after the @ symbol. For example, if an email address was firstname.lastname@example.org, the email domain name is foobar.com.
We joked about putting up a survey to see what others think. In my copious free time, that's exactly what I did. The survey's still up here. I was able to cajole about 98 people into responding and my brief analysis is based on those responses. I was interested in how people feel about an individual's choice of email domain. Not about the technology or functionality, but what the email domain says about the person using it.
A few caveats:
I asked people to rate email domain names with 1 being best and 12 being worst. Here is the raw data.
The Excel spreadsheet of data is here if you want to do your own analysis.
If you look at purely the votes for number 1, then Vanity domain with self-hosted email is best regarded, followed by Vanity domain with Google hosted email, and Gmail next. By this method, Aol.com email is seen as the worst by far, with Portal domains next.
I tried doing a weighted analysis (OK, I have no idea what a 'weighted' analysis is, but my method seemed good. You can berate me in the comments...). I multipled the number of votes by the ranking position and summed up the totals. In doing this, the lowest sum should reflect the overall ranking including votes that are good and bad.
With this 'weighting' Gmail rises to the top over vanity domains. Aol.com and Portal domains remain at the bottom. The 'weighted' order is:
Vanity domain with self-hosted email
Vanity domain with Google hosted email
ISP email (cable or DSL company)
Shared family email account
Portal domain (go.com, lycos.com, ask.com, etc.)
Personally, I don't give email domains a lot of thought, except in two cases. First is the use of the email address given by an ISP provider that someone might get with their cable modem or DSL service. IMHO, this email address should NEVER be used. Locking yourself into an ISP to simply keep your email address or suffering through issues if your ISP is bought/merged is senseless. Second is using an Aol.com address, especially for business purposes. This simply shows a lack of professionality and knowledge of current internet practices and capabilities.
I asked people for any comments about email domains and I got a number of responses. I redacted any identifying or non-pertinent info.
I don't like getting personal emails from folks work email address. I won't share the same way knowing that my reply is "owned" by their employer. I'm not sure how I'm going to know if someone's vanity domain is a gmail one. facebook.com unless they work for facebook but then that just goes back to using company email for personal. Just like it is unprofessional to use your personal email for work it is poor form to use your work email for personal. It would be hard for the casual observer to tell the difference between google hosted private domain and self hosted. ISP email is amateur hour. AOL or hotmail email probably means you have been using that since the 90's, suck it up and change already. Alum email tells me you shop for all your casual wear at your college bookstore unless it is alum related correspondence. I ranked the "Shared family email account" only a 6 since that type of account is analogous to a home phone number with an answering machine vs a cell number with voicemail -- you're never quite sure who's going to be able to see your message. In general, though, my rankings are largely based on implications of longevity -- that is, how long a given domain is likely to remain as a person's canonical/primary email address. Naturally, that's why "vanity domain" is the winner. (And that's also why Hotmail and Aol are at the botoom -- most sensible users soon outgrow those services.
I don't place a particular judgment on these because most folks don't have many choices on which domain they use (their area might not have many ISPs or for financial reasons they are limited)
Having an opinion about someone's email domain feel like making a judgment based on the shoes they wear. Pointless and counterproductive, but I tend to do it anyways.
My worsts are based on the perception that these people aren't savvy enough to go with a more modern ISP. My bests are based on the assumption that the person has made something of themselves - if this is their work domain. That said, individuals whose business value is derived from their business identity get respect from the use of that identity in the email domain name, so work domain would be a tie with either of the vanity domain options. I put it third only in the case of someone who uses their work email address for personal purposes (guess it feels to me like unwise misuse of company property, or like you're slacking on the job.) I have to confess a little confusion on the difference between the two vanity-domain options because - unless I'm completely wrong (highly possible) I'd be completely unable to tell who is hosting your domain just by reading the name in an email header.
Extra bonus points for a working genie or compuserve address.
have admined my own email server (on a freebsd jail) for the last 8 years, and i'm female.
I do not understand the difference between the two vanity domains- google vs self. How would I know who was hosting the email? Work domains depend on the company: email@example.com is cool; firstname.lastname@example.org is not. If you are not a student, any .edu email address tells me you're either a) stuck in the past or b) trying to show off (email@example.com)
For some reason I presume hotmail is for flighty people, and gmail is more credible. I do not know why I feel this
What do you think? Are there email domain that make you think one way or another about the user?
Ever since I started doing this, I've been surprised how much people like watching these. Here's three more.