Email is a decentralized, non-web messaging transport, with typical user interfaces that encourage excessively lengthy messages, in contrast to texting.
- Asynchronous posting to your website.
- POSSE destination
- One on one or one to many messaging among older internet users, some professions, and academia.
- Messaging to a (often self-)selected group, i.e. email list
Indiewebcamp creators currently posting to their sites via email, and/or POSSEing to email:
- he also occasionally publishes emails sent to an email list
... more posting POSSEing here ...
Due to its popularity and ubiquity email is extremely widely supported.
Of particular interest is the fact that many native applications (especially on iOS) include it in their share/export/action menus by default. This could be an excellent UI to piggyback on for quick and easy posting to our own sites.
questo.email is an indieweb/email bridge that aims to be a hub for all kinds of interactions between indie sites and email addresses, including email-to-webmention and webmentions-to-email.
Redirect to public issues
One possible approach is to redirect incoming email to public issues, hosted on your own site, or GitHub, per:
I wonder what would happen if I set an email auto-responder that instructed people to open an issue on github.com/aaronpk/self instead of send me an email. #email #lifehack
Bad for more than two people
Whilst adequate for some one to one conversation it scales extremely badly to conversations with more than two people.
Bad for collaboration
- URLs == web
- email addresses != web.
Not web identifiers
- email addresses are internet identifiers, not web identifiers, by definition.
- "I would rather futz with a domain and shared hosting than my own SMTP server any day"
Bad for identity
Encourages Constant Distraction
Unreliable DeliveryEmail delivery, especially with your own domain, has shown to be anecdotally unreliable due to overzealous spam filters' false positives, e.g.: https://twitter.com/dangillmor/status/579770619367170049
Is there a way to find out if my email is ending up semi-routinely in spam filters? Several folks recently said they didn't get my messages
Ecosystem discriminates against indie servers
The email server ecosystem has evolved to a small handful of very large (100s of millions of accounts) services that peer with each other, and are actively hostile to indie servers sending their own mail with the excuse that those indie servers lack "reputation" (an ineffable an ill-defined requirement) for the larger servers to accept email from them.
For more details see:
- 2015-10-17 Jody Ribton: The Hostile Email Landscape
See and extract/cite from:
Can I point my domain to my VPS(/web server) but still use hosted email services? I don’t want to run a mailserver
Yes, your domain name can resolve to the IP address of your web server for HTTP traffic, but direct mail agents to look elsewhere. See also DNS.
Email Services by Type
Here are various levels of email services available from different providers, roughly ordered from easiest/cheapest/friendliest to most powerful/technical.
Custom domain email providers
Custom domain email providers have the ability to set up an email account to send email as if it is from your own personal domain.
IndieWeb community members using this approach:
- Jonny Barnes is using Fastmail's service for receiving/reading/sending jonnybarnes.net emails. Fastmail works by setting up a custom domain as an alias for your fastmail inbox.
- Tantek Çelik is using Gmail for receiving/reading/sending tantek.com emails.
- Kyle Mahan is a Fastmail user too. They recommend letting fastmail be your actual nameserver, but I opted to continue using my registrar's nameserver and just copy/paste MX, DKIM, and SPF records from Fastmail.
Gmail (gmail.com run by Google) is a free email service that has the ability to set it up to send email as if it is from your own personal domain, optionally using the SMTP server from your domain host (web host).
FastMail(https://www.fastmail.fm/signup/personal.html) is a paid email service that has a range of options from only giving you a @fastmail address to others that allow you to have your own personal domain. Other differentiators are with how much email you can store.
Pawnmail(https://pawnmail.com/) is a service dedicated to provide "Email hosting for custom domains" that gives 2GB storage "free forever" to anyone. It provides a webmail client along with SMTP, IMAP and POP3 access.
Mail as a Service
Mandrill is a service for sending and receiving emails run by Mailchimp. It formerly had a generous free plan, but will require a paid MailChimp account beginning 2016-04-27 and paid e-mail volume, now starting at 30$ a month.
Greyed-out information below probably not correct any more -> if you still use Mandrill, please update it!
Note: Madrill does not charge for inbound email. See: https://twitter.com/sandeepshetty/status/463330411636994048
- Register at http://mandrillapp.com
- Create a new inbound domain and set up MX records for the domain you’ve chosen detailed here
- Set up your web server to accept POST requests to the URL you configured
Beware: I have experienced some inconsistencies in the mandrill responses. Namely that sometimes attachments are in the msg.attachments key, but I have also seen them in msg.images. I am currently using
attachments = msg.attachments || msg.images ||  to cater for both cases. --Waterpigs.co.uk 10:26, 24 May 2013 (PDT)
Other Inbound Email Providers
There are other email PaaS companies which offer similar inbound POST request hooks instead of using Mandrill. More details coming soon.
Mail Forwarding Services
- The service provider handles all of the issues that are involved with mail delivery such as spam filtering, DKIM and SPF support and will also cache your mail if your MTA goes offline
- You still need to setup a MTA to receive the email being forwarded by the vendor
IndieWeb community members using this approach:
- Bear is using MailRoute for receiving/sending bear.im emails.
MailRoute allows you to specify its mail servers in your domain's MX records and then specify what server domain or IP Address to forward sanitized emails to. It offers spam filtering, greylisting and a number of other features. Once you have an account and have configured it for your domain you are then ready to setup your local MTA.
Handling it Yourself
Mail in a Box
Running your own mail server
A MTA (Mail Transfer Agent) is a process that runs on your server and accepts incoming SMTP (port 25 generally) connections for mail delivery. Running your own MTA is fraught with trouble and can be so very time consuming that even people who run servers for a living generally use a forwarding service to handle all of the messy bits.
The example I give here will be to use Mailroute as the forwarding service and Postfix as the local MTA, but other combinations can be used.
- Note* this is a draft work-in-progress - I'll be filling in more concrete examples and other suggestions as I get time.
I use Postfix primarily because it comes from all of the OS Distros with a very sane set of defaults that you enter during setup and it just works. The reason Postfix becomes a drop-in tool is because of the work that is being done by the Mail Forwarder you setup in the prior step.
The key bits to configure is to tell the installer that you are using Postfix as "Stand-alone Internet Host" and then make sure the main.cf entries for mydestination contains your domain and relayhost contains the domain name for your Mail Forwarder.
- tls and sasl configuration
- show how to configure the host's MDA (Mail Delivery Agent) to deliver emails to a program instead of a user mailbox
- show how to configure a mailbox to use store mail to be read by a cronjob or other agent
User:Petermolnar.eu had been running his own mail stack; the current setup is postfix ( with postscreen ) + dovecot + dspam + opendkim + opendmarc. A few tutorials on petermolnar.eu about the topic:
- Getting DKIM, DMARC and SPF to work with Postfix, OpenDKIM and OpenDMARC
- Lightweight, secure, database-free, spamfiltering mail server with Postfix, Dovecot, openDKIM and dspam on Debian 7
Anyone can send fake email from any email address. You need some way of determining that inbound email does indeed come from who it appears to. Possible solutions include:
- Make sure you’re verifying the authenticity of the request sent to your webhook
- Using “secret” email addresses by embedding the password in the address, e.g. [email protected] — then store it in a private address book to save typing
- Use a mechanism such as SPF to determine the authenticity of an email