Like most people scrabbling to make a living, I wear many hats. I have
a computer-consultant hat, a part-time teacher's hat, and several hats
I wear when disguised as a writer. Heck, I even have a personal-life
hat. And I have an e-mail address to go with each piece of headgear.
All of these addresses aren't just techie bling. Owning a wide variety
of e-mail addresses is a handy trick to have up your sleeve. If you
want someone you meet to remember you as, say, a serious scholar of
UFOs, you can give that person the e-mail address scholar@KecksburgUFOCentral.com.
If you suspect that a future client may not share your interest in
fringe matters, choose another address for that purpose -- say, firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you're trolling for dates, say you're email@example.com.
How do you get such a great variety of addresses? And how do you name
them whatever you want? You have to control your own domain names. That
way, if you change jobs, change Internet service providers, or move to
Bora-Bora, you won't need to send out change-of-e-mail notifications.
The downside, however, is that you'll have to do some up-front work to
set up the domains and the e-mail addresses.
Luckily, it's surprisingly easy and affordable to assemble a collection
of e-mail addresses. First, you'll need to lay down a bit of money for
your own domain. Then, you can either set up a real POP e-mailbox at
your domain (firstname.lastname@example.org),
or you can have a forwarding address that redirects e-mail sent to that
address to any existing e-mail address--your Yahoo Mail account, for
example. Either approach works, but the redirection approach works a
lot more easily -- if, that is, your domain registrar offers e-mail
Take DirectNIC and GoDaddy
as two examples. When you register a domain with either of these
registrars, they provide a little form on their domain management pages
in which you enter a new address at your domain and enter a destination
for mail to that address. Click the OK button, and in a twinkling, any
mail to the new address will be redirected to the mailbox you
specified, whether it's your free Web-mail address or even your address
at work. That's e-mail forwarding in a nutshell.
But if you'd like to get technical, here's the lowdown: Whenever you send
out an e-mail, it goes to an SMTP server. This server looks at the
address on the message, then checks the domain record (everything after
the @ sign in the address) in the domain registry. The registry is the
definitive database of domain records, and it lives on many servers
across the Internet. One of the records in the registry is each
domain's mail exchange (or MX) record, which shows the SMTP server
where to send mail. In the case of e-mail forwarding, the destination
mail server in the MX record redirects incoming mail to the address
you've set up. This extra step can cause delays with mail that's been
redirected, but e-mail forwarding usually works well, and it's very
easy to set up.
The alternative approach -- useful if your domain registrar doesn't
offer forwarding -- is to create a new POP mailbox, which costs a
little extra at most domain registrars. DirectNIC and GoDaddy, for
example, charge US$10 for the first new POP address, and they offer
various discounts for multiple boxes. Setting up a new address in these
cases is almost as easy as setting up a forwarding address, but you
need to go through the extra step of setting up your e-mail software to
check each new mailbox.
The best trick I discovered for managing my various online personas is
to redirect all mail sent to any address at any of my domains. I simply
set up a redirect using the asterisk or star, the universal wildcard.
gets redirected to my real address, then I'll get all the messages.
True, this does open the door to spammers who send messages to
addresses such as sales@, webmaster@, and other you-guess-'em addresses, but a decent spam filter will fix this.
My favourite part about setting up universal forwarding is that I can
give out any mail address at my domain, depending on the impression I'm
trying to give. If I'm trying to impress, I can call myself email@example.com. On the other hand, I might want to avoid a hail of e-mail resumes. In that case, I'm firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're a real tinkerer, you can set up filters in your software to
send messages to special folders depending on the entry in the To
field. But then you'll be a candidate for a new e-mail address: email@example.com.
Disclaimer: The e-mail addresses in this column are
fictional. Any similarity between them and any real address, living or
dead, is entirely coincidental.