* Startups Should Delete All Of Their Email

17 Seconds #79. Useful Info Quickly.

I was born in 1966, and in my lifetime there has been one significant monopoly broken up: the 1982 breakup of AT&T. But this is not an article about antitrust legislation/litigation or the poisonous anti-capitalist power of monopolies.

This is an article about relying on big powerful monopolies – tech monopolies in particular – for anything.

In particular, startups should not “permanently” keep all of their email in Gmail. Or on a tech platform controlled by any other huge company.

In December 2020, Google suffered a worldwide system outage:

* Gmail, YouTube, Google Docs And Other Services Go Down In Multiple Countries (2020-12-14)

This outage resulted in panicked users – including my stepson – being presented with “account not found” error messages (and I hesitate to call them error messages because that is some seriously sloppy programming) on both their personal Gmail and Google Classroom accounts.

Without the 1982 breakup of AT&T – which spawned many technical improvements in telecommunications – the Internet as we know it today would not exist. What improvements could we enjoy if we were to have real competition in other markets, such as search (Google), social (Facebook), commerce (Amazon), and computing (Apple)?

Security, privacy, unexplained outages. Those are all good reasons to avoid relying on Gmail. (Who would you call if your Gmail account was offline?) But the real reason is more simple.

Gmail is a poor excuse for a content management system (CMS). And so much of your email is junk that is not worth saving for one day (much less forever).

When Gmail was launched on April Fools day 2004, we all bought in to the “unlimited storage” lie. I imported all of my existing email into Gmail and ran out of storage in about a month. I have been playing catch-up ever since, trying to delete or archive/PDF all but a handful of my Gmail email threads.

On 2020-09-17, I finally completed deleting (or archiving) all of my Gmail, PDFing 247 email threads on that day alone.

I now keep only a handful of “permanent” email threads in my inbox, including those announcing the birth of my three children. And I purge/PDF all email threads monthly.

And now it is much easier to find emails that are important by searching for them on my computer.

As for a CMS, I use a simple – yet powerful – homegrown FileMaker relational database, with 12 major components. One component is my Contacts database, which I first created during my senior year at MIT in 1988. I have been updating that database ever since, enriching and improving the data. Using email address as the unique ID, I have about 35,000 unique records in the database, but that’s an article for another day.

The AT&T breakup also enabled companies like Verio to exist, survive, and thrive. Verio was sold for $6 billion cash in 2000 and remains the largest startup exit that I have ever been a part of. So there’s that.

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