Customer communication is overrated

Recently my web and email host, @1and1, removed the ability to manage a domain I was assigned when I first joined them years ago. Worse, they didn’t inform me ahead of time. So now I can no longer control email accounts for that domain. That means once an account starts getting spam, I can no longer route it to the bit bucket.

Here’s how it used to work.

I was given the domain, sNNNNNNNN.onlinehome.us, where N is a digit. That works for web sites and email addresses.

They allow unlimited email aliases. This means that, even without creating a special email account at 1and1, I can create an alias simply by registering that alias as if I’d created an email account. For example, let’s say I joined Dropbox and they required an email address, but I wasn’t sure I trusted them yet. I’d just fill in the Dropbox registration form with the email, Dropbox@sNNNNNNNN.onlinehome.us. I wouldn’t even have to go to the 1and1 control panel to create it. Simple, effective, and very useful. If I started getting spam on that address, I would know that Dropbox couldn’t be trusted, or got hacked.

I have an email account, *@sNNNNNNNN.onlinehome.us, that I can use to retrieve all email to any alias at that domain via my email client. When I wanted privacy, didn’t trust a company to keep my address private, was just trying out a service and needed an email address, or just needed a one-time address, I’d assign an alias to that domain. In any case, every company was assigned a unique alias.

Over the years I’ve been able to continue using some aliases, and others started getting flooded with spam because the company I dealt with got hacked, went out of business, or sold my address to spammers. No problem. I used to be able to go into the 1and1 control panel and forward that alias to the bit bucket. No longer.

While I can continue to use any alias to that domain simply by giving it out, I can’t control anything that happens afterwards. Because I can’t change the alias into a forwarding address that goes to the bit bucket, I’m now getting a ton of spam on two accounts mixed in with the good email from other aliases at that domain.

And 1and1 won’t let me stop it.

My only option is to go to all the valid services that I gave that address to and change it to another email address, either to a domain I do control, or to a Gmail account. Then I have to abandon that entire domain’s email. This is not an insignificant amount of work.

This kind of non-backwards compatible change to something as important as email needed to be communicated by 1and1 to their customers at least six months in advance so we could migrate away from that domain. Instead, I find out about this policy change after I start getting spammed and can’t change the alias to a forwarder.

I know a lot of people don’t like 1and1. But they’ve been very reliable for me. However, within the last two weeks alone I’ve had two serious problems with them. The first being that they allowed a user of an email account to upgrade it to a business account, doubling my monthly fee, without asking my permission first. I’m the account holder! I should approve any change that affects my bill. The second being this issue here.

What’s happened to you, 1and1?

Author: Tom

Destroyer of software. If I haven't tested it, it hasn't been tested.

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