Klaus Zimmermann's Corner

Email has come full circle back to the 90s...

Back in the early nineties, email was still something of a rarity, usually as something part of your work or academia, or something you had to pay for like a subscription package from your ISP. Showcasing an email address was a little hipsterlike, almost flauntable. Then came Hotmail.

Free Email providers started appearing slowly but surely, requiring nothing more than just a desired username and password, and the magical "ooh" of personal email started dying out. Webmail became a commonplace thing, with people checking in at work, the library or their own PCs back home. Google temporarily raised the bar with the 1GB storage limit at a time most HDDs fit about 20 of it, but other providers followed suit later, and personal email no longer was anything special. Anyone could have one with their own combination of username/password.

And then something interesting happened: personal email became rare and scarce again! Well, at least in the sense of "give me your desired username/password and you'll have an inbox." Providers started asking for full names, "backup addresses" for confirmation purposes, and the obvious cell phone number. Sometimes you aren't even able to sign up because "too many people have used your IP address." And here's the kicker: if you want to avoid all of this red tape or have just a little more privacy, you must pay for the service!

I can't help but feel that Email, like some other recentralized parts of the web, has come back to its scarce origins of the early 90s - only that this time, the scarcity is artificial.