Dec 7: How I came to use FastMail and still love using it today (a non-tech user’s point of view)

This is the seventh post in the FastMail 2015 Advent Calendar. Stay tuned for another post tomorrow.

The year was 2004.

Facebook had barely launched, Twitter didn’t exist and I thought that my Nokia 3310 would pretty much be the pinnacle of mobile phone technology.

During this time I didn’t have a home computer so I heavily relied on my work computer for internet access and email communication (it’s only now I’m reminded of that familiar weekly cry of “email’s gone down!”).

Like many people, somewhere along the way I’d also set up a Hotmail account. And what had been quite exciting at first, had ultimately turned out to be a frustrating user experience, culminating in the time Hotmail deleted a significant amount of my inbox in a random act of culling.

My FastMail moment

I worked out all I really wanted was an email address that didn’t lock me into my work place, was easily accessible from different locations but that also ran on a platform that didn’t bombard me with ads. Sounded easy enough, right?

One day at work I was listening to the ABC (Australian public broadcaster) Melbourne radio station 774. The Wednesday morning show had a weekly IT segment and one of the topics happened to be on email.

The presenter had recommended an email provider called FastMail, a small Australian company based in Melbourne noted for its extremely reliable email hosting service and absence of ads. Apparently those in the know knew it was good.

Yahoo!-ing FastMail I saw some glowing testimonials on their website (which at this stage was still FastMail.FM). One particular quote from a large daily newspaper stuck with me. It simply stated: “The world’s best email service provider.”

I signed up that morning and now 11 years later, not only do I still use the same email account, I also happen to work for the company.

In the early days when I gave out my shiny new email address, people would sometimes say “you mean Hotmail?” to which I would say “no, it’s ‘Fast’ Mail, much better than Hotmail. Check them out.” I would then explain that FastMail doesn’t have “those annoying ads”.

When Gmail gained prominence I briefly flirted with crossing over but was further put off when I discovered someone had already taken ‘my’ email address. I did end up trying Gmail – at the insistence of friends – but I soon discovered how much I disliked it. After using FastMail for so long the ads really put me off. I found the interface confusing and the user experience quite frustrating.

So what’s so good about FastMail?

It seems there are many reasons why people like using FastMail for their email. As the least-technically qualified person in the FastMail office* and long-time FastMail user, these are mine:

  • No ads. Ever. I’ve never been a fan of ads in my email and happily paid my FastMail subscription just to avoid this. (Yep, working in marketing communications the irony is not lost on me…)
  • A well-designed interface and great user experience. Having used other email clients – including at one stage the horrendous Lotus Notes – I really appreciate the clean design of the FastMail interface.
  • The speed. I didn’t really appreciate this until I saw how fast it was when compared to other email clients. And once you’ve experienced faster speeds, it’s hard to settle for anything less.
  • It’s easy to use how I want to use it. I prefer a mix of webmail and these days the iOS native app. Either way getting my email is simple.
  • Great support. I’ve only ever had to contact support a few times and was always impressed with the prompt and personal attention I received. It’s interesting now sitting on the other side of the fence and seeing the great work the Support team does every day, which is often trumpeted throughout social media.

After recently becoming a part of the FastMail team I would say the other big thing I like about FastMail is the passion. Now, hang on, let me explain that one further!

The FastMail team lives and breathes email technology. They love the challenge of trying to create the very best email experience possible and are always looking for ways to improve on what is already there. I know this because I get to see it on a daily basis.

Even as an insider I’m looking forward to seeing how FastMail will continue to evolve. And in another 11 years from now I’m pretty sure I’m still going to have that same email address.

* I’m a fan of technology but happily admit to my own technical shortcomings. This is despite once attempting an Information Systems degree – I was the only student whose minor course of study was going to be in English. And no, I didn’t last too long eventually ending up in the world of marketing communications.

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