Don’t tell everyone… but it looks like Google’s ‘hosted’ domain service for Gmail is quietly open for business. The language on the signup form remains quite dissuasive, suggesting there’s a stringent approval process. But I’ve made two requests, under two separate identities, to become a beta tester – neither, frankly, with terrific justifications – and both were accepted within a day or two.
If you’ve ever felt embarrassed at having an email address with ‘gmail‘ or ‘hotmail‘ (or ‘yes-I’m-a-cheapskate’) in it, this is the service you’ve been waiting for. If you own a domain name, you can now bring it to Gmail, allowing you to send and receive email using yournamehere.com, like a ‘proper’ email service.
For a while now, Gmail has offered the ability to ‘send from another address‘ – but at the recipient’s end, the Gmail identity often remains visible. In a worst case scenario, I’ve known companies to reject my messages as spam, because the sender address doesn’t match the originating machine.
With this service, those problems are gone. And suddenly web-based email is looking a much better arrangement than using your ISP accounts. You can check your Gmail from anywhere, using any web browser – including mobile phone. If you want to keep using old-school email software, Gmail lets you do that too, once you enable it. The ‘don’t sort it, just search for it’ approach is genius, and you’ll have a hard time coming close to filling your 2GB mailbox capacity. Plus if you change ISP, you won’t need to change your email address.
Oh – and it’s all free. All you need is your own domain, and that shouldn’t cost you more than a few quid a year. I’m using Pipex’s 123-reg service, and their web-based interface gives me all the configuration options I need. Just one word of caution: like anything involving DNS, it’s a pretty ugly process, and it can take a couple of days for any changes to take effect.