So I got something approaching a proper reply from mail.com. (If
you don’t know what I’m talking about, I wrote about it in January,
but suffice to say that they promised me a free-for-life email forwarding
service, and then told me they were charging for it.) Here it is in
full, with annotations:
This is already a huge improvement on anything I’ve received from
them in the past: my very first email from mail.com personally addressed
Thank you for contacting Mail.com regarding our email forwarding
Recently, Mail.com initiated a new policy which reclassified
forwarding service as a premium feature. Therefore, effective the
referenced in our original notice to users, all currently existing
of the free email service must now subscribe to this premium forwarding
feature if they would like to continue to have their email forwarded
an email account outside the Mail.com network.
Well, they certainly understand the problem.
In accordance with the User
is our position that this change in service terms does not have any
impact whatsoever on the original promise of a free, permanent email
address made by Mail.com, Inc., and that any and all claims that attempt
to extend the notion of a free email account to a free forwarding
service are misguided.
My, what a long sentence! Smells like it was drafted by a lawyer
What they don’t mention is that I never consented to the User Agreement.
I signed up with iname before it merged with mail.com, and as far
as I know I never had to click through any legalese at all. (The internet
was far more innocent then.)
The idea that "any and all claims that attempt to extend the
notion of a free email account to a free forwarding service are misguided"
is hilarious; even the idea that I’m attempting to extend anything
is pretty laughable. When I signed up for the iname service, a free
email account and a free forwarding service were coterminous. There
WAS nothing else: web-based email systems had not yet arrived on the
scene. The irony here is that it’s mail.com doing the extending: it’s
their attempt to extend the notion of a free email account to a free
way of accessing one’s email over the web which is misguided. I know
that internet newbies these days tend not to understand that there’s
a lot more to the internet than the web, but mail.com is surely no
internet newbie. What use, for instance, would mail.com’s service
be to my sister when she moves to Antarctica later this year? She
will have email access, but no web access. And what about blind people
who find it a lot easier to read emails than web pages?
Rest assured, your email account in and of itself
remains a free, permanent account. As you know, Mail.com’s business
based on an advertising network; that is, the more users we have that
regularly login to their accounts from the home page, the more valuable
advertising space on our site becomes. We therefore value all of our
users, whether they are free account holders or premium users. Given
current market conditions, we have determined that making the forwarding
service a pay service is essential to the continued existence of the
Mail.com service. We believe this change will help ensure that we
continue to bring you the benefits of a free basic email account now
in the foreseeable future.
Wow, breaking their promise to their clients is essential to their
continued existence? I’d better change my email address anyway: I
don’t hold out much hope for their continued existence in that case.
Given the challenge of increasing the number of people using their
email service, they chose to do so not by making it better but by
making it worse.
Both Microsoft and Yahoo have wildly popular free web-based email
systems. Mail.com had two edges over them: it had a large range of
domain names to choose from, and it offered free email forwarding.
Now it only has one edge. They’ve given up a huge advantage: a lot
of people, like me, hate web-based email. We consider it slow and
clunky with insufficient functionality; you can’t even store all your
old emails. There are lots of very good email clients out there, and
a lot of them are free. Why give all that up and migrate to a web-based
email system? Someone isn’t thinking straight here, and I’m pretty
sure it’s mail.com.