E-Mail Address Portability?

This week, someone decided to petition the FCC for something amazingly stupid: they want the FCC to force ISP's to provide 'e-mail address portability'. Just like with telephone numbers, this individual thinks it's a good idea.

This person doesn't seem to understand the difference between a phone number and a domain name. Domain names are actually entities, bought and owned by someone or a company. The key word is owned. You don't 'own' the email address, in essence, you're 'renting' it! You stop paying, or you move elsewhere, do you really expect the owner to keep handling your e-mail? Even the Postal Service doesn't do this! They'll forward your mail for a few weeks until you notify everyone, and then they're done and out of the loop.

Also, think about the inefficiencies of such a requirement. Over time, someone could change email addresses 2, 3, maybe even 5 times. Say I send an email to address #1 with a 10Mb attachment. According to this petition, the email sent to address #1 would be forwarded to address #2, then from there to address #3, until it gets to address #5. My email has been handled by 5 different ISP's, and they all had to absorb the cost of moving my bytes over to another ISP, and so on. Absolutely ridiculous if you ask me.

I'm all for asking ISP's to do something like this for a very short period of time, just like the Postal Service. But, I would do it somewhat differently. Instead of burdening the ISP's with handling large volumes of potentially large pieces of mail, why not have them issue a 'bounce' back to the sender, with a small note indicating the recipient has 'moved' and here is his/her new email address. We're now talking about an email with a size of 1000 to 2000 bytes, instead of in the megabytes. We avoid forwarding spam, and if the sender email doesn't exist, no second bounce is issued, avoiding a mail loop. I know of a few ISP's that already do this as a courtesy to their customers who have decided to move on. That's just good business if you ask me; never ignore an ex-client, because they might want to come back in the future.

So instead of petitioning for e-mail address portability, we should be asking ISP's to implement some sort of email 'address' forwarding/bounce functionality instead. It's cleaner, more efficient and much less of a burden on ISP's and the infrastructure as a whole.


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