in Email, User Interface

Yahoo AddressGuard vs Gmail aliases – a case study in thinking outside the box

I remember when Yahoo AddressGuard came out. After having had two of my favorite email addresses pummeled to oblivion with spam, I jumped on the opportunity to a near endless store of disposable email addresses. I do remembering thinking that the process of creating new disposable addresses seemed a bit cumbersome, but what the hell, it was worth it! And then gmail was born, and with it came gmail aliases, and suddenly Yahoo AddressGuard seemed like a big old clunker…

Why? Well, the genius of gmail aliases is that you get almost all the benefit of Yahoo AddressGuard, but there is no ui, no forms to fill out, no disposable addresses to manage. All you do is add a plus sign to your current user id and then add some descriptive term to identify the alias. For example, if I’m filling out a form at BigBBQ.com, I might fill in my email address as gmailusername+bigbbq@gmail.com. Essentially, google replaced an entire user interface for managing disposable addresses with a plus sign! Ok, there is still a bit of a trade-off – your actual email can relatively easily be parsed out of the alias, but then gmail’s spam filtering is so good, that for the spammers who go to the trouble to do that (it won’t be worth it until gmail aliases become widespread), they’ll get dumped into the spam folder anyway.