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Fastmail Thoughts

last updated Saturday 20 June 2015

I recently switched to fastmail in lieu of gmail, mostly because I increasingly dislike google’s stance on privacy, their integration between products, and their ongoing updates to gmail. I unfortunately updated gmail on my phone, and their new material design ethos was designed by an idiot who thinks that they should have whitespace everywhere, wasting tons of space already in short supply. I now can only see 5.5 messages in the inbox view, whereas I used to be able to see 8, an incredibly annoying change in the most important screen. So I switched.

A review of fastmail a several months in:

tl;dr: gmail is a better web application, and a better android application. Choose fastmail if you value privacy; choose gmail otherwise.


  • it’s not gmail
  • privacy
  • gmail shrunk the view window on android for some stupid flat design rationale; they appear to assume everyone reads email on a 6 inch phone


  • fastmail pretends to be a gmail style email client where the unit of manipulation is a conversation, not a message. But the underlying message orientation peeks through in many cases.
    • When deleting a conversation, it has repeatedly asked if I want to delete the entire conversation (what else would I want?) and had a Yes/No for don’t ask me again. I’ve clicked “don’t ask again” at least 3 times. It doesn’t take.
    • if you archive a conversation, the sent emails also move to archive out of sent. This is wrong.
  • Settings feels like my first javascript project.
    • routing rules have to be very simple and sometimes don’t work.
    • The UI for setting up routing rules is shit; you have to add them, click, add, then scroll to the top of a very long page and click “apply all changes” for the rules to take (yes, I missed that while porting rules from my old webmail and had to redo 40+ rules). It’s essentially two-phase commit ala git; not at all what I expected for a webmail ui.
    • The rules don’t work as you would expect: eg messages from “” do not match “sender ends with” “”.
    • Rules can only filter on one thing at a time — no compound rules on eg sender and subject. When you create a rule, it doesn’t offer to apply to existing messages in the inbox.
    • Rules can’t use “or”. So if you filter on receiver, you can’t say or or Instead, you have to have one rule per each. By the time you have 100+ of these, it’s damn annoying.
  • spam filtering is crappy:
    • When you mark something as not spam, it is delivered to your inbox and skips rules.
    • there’s no ability to sort by spam score. Hopefully the most likely nonspam would have the lowest score, so it would be convenient to sort by that to find nonspam.
    • the spam filter doesn’t learn: I’ve had to mark a loan payment confirmation email as not-spam every single month I’ve used fastmail
  • It sometimes loses the send button while composing messages.
  • No option to “filter emails like this”; instead, you have to copy and paste eg the address you want to filter into a screen 3 clicks away.
  • By default, it doesn’t load images in html email. There is a link that tries to load the images in the email you’re viewing; it works perhaps 2/3 of the time.
  • The rich editor is crap.
    • For just one of a long list: paste tsv data in there; it strips all the tabs. Awesome. So a b c pastes as abc. Wat?
    • the mobile site on firefox lags typing like 10+ seconds if you have a quoted reply in the message box. It’s strictly amateur hour.
  • The application disables access to files on mobile phones even after using requesting desktop in firefox. surprise!

Potential Dealbreakers:

  • They attempt to monetize security in an incredibly stupid way. If you setup two factor authentication to text a code to your phone, they charge for the sms messages — 0.12 each! — even on $40/year accounts. That’s just chintzy. Better yet, because they’re run by cheap dicks, purchased sms credits expire after a year!!! When I saw that it felt like purchasing a prepaid cellphone at a gas station level cheap. They’re seriously pricing at 1600 hundred times the pricing twilio has on their web page for joe-random-user, not even considering volume discounts. Monetizing security makes you an asshole.
  • Their calendar implementation doesn’t understand meeting requests from Outlook. For example, I got a meeting request for 3pm PDT (sent as 2200 Greenwich; see excerpt from the calendar invite below) that Fastmail interpreted as 2pm PDT / 10pm BST. What on earth? Exchange is only the most common professional calendar server; why would you assume fastmail interoperates with Outlook?
DTSTART;TZID=Greenwich Standard Time:20150729T220000

In summary, there’s just a lot of annoyances that make me assume the devs don’t use their own product or they’d fix it out of sheer annoyance. But they don’t sell your information, or decide to shrink the number of messages viewable in your inbox in order to conform to some stupid corporate design ethos.