Email Recommendations

Hey gang!

What’s everyone’s thoughts on the best freedom-centered/private/open-source email service? I hear great things about Protonmail, but also saw some posts saying they aren’t really open source. Any self-sovereign options? I read self-hosting email is a bear, but that’s from individuals, not a world-class org like Start9! Are there any plans for an email service for StartOS?

Appreciate it!

Hi @mc-lemons! This is a good question. I think the consensus among the Start9 community is essentially that email (and the SMTP protocol more specifically) has become captured to the point where attempting to re-align it on sovereign grounds would not be feasible/practical. Below are a couple of links to some informative takes for context:

From Matt Hill, 11/18/22: Telegram: Contact @start9_labs

And an essay that gets shared frequently around this topic: “The Death of Decentralized Email” by Jameson Lopp.

With that being said, Protonmail is a popular choice among some Start9 team members, and I’ve used it myself without issues. I’m sure other team members would have more informative takes to add.


I use Proton Mail myself. I considered self hosting with something like Modoboa. But after much research I concluded there is no way to self host reliable email. The vast majority of mail recipients that I would send to are on gmail, or Outlook . com. Google and Microsoft will likely block, or SPAM box all incoming mail not coming from IP addresses known to be associated with email providers. Other mail providers will do similar things. So I’d have to proxy it through a known email provider anyway. Email has been completely captured. I may still do this though. Not for the purpose sending, and receiving email, but to have a self hosted imap server for archival purposes. I have 20 years or more of email archives that I’d like on-demand access to, but would feel better if it wasn’t all sitting on someone else’s server. Even though Proton Mail promises that it’s client side encrypted, and they can’t read it.

Thanks for the replies! Sucks email has been captured though :confused:

Can anyone confirm that Proton Mail is fully open source? Also, how do they keep from being blacklisted? I didn’t see them in the top ten providers from the Lopp article, but maybe they go by a different name?

Or maybe there’s better options?

Their SMTP servers are quite a separate issue from any open source mail client though.

I don’t think anyone is going to go out of their way to specifically blacklist a mailserver if they don’t have to, but as I understand it, Proton is very strict and not completely censorship resistant in order to stay in business and not get blacklisted. I’ve NEVER seen spam from a Proton account, but I get dozens a week from Gmail, who don’t care because they basically own 50% of email and no-one can touch them.

Also, I’m not sure blacklisting is the issue anymore. With such dominance by just a couple of key players, it’s sometimes more a case of whether you’re whitelisted or not. You with an SMTP server on your Start9 are not going to get whitelisted at all, while Proton can probably just scrape by as important enough, for now.

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