Thursday, November 30, 2017

The end of things

Everything ends sooner or later. We all know that, and we’ve seen the evidence. Technology changes a lot, too, and new products and services come and go all the time. One technological change is happening here in New Zealand and it’s the first of its kind for me, and also the end of something that lasted 21 years.

Vodafone, one of the telecommunications companies operating in New Zealand, announced recently that it was shutting down its email services as a stand-alone service beginning today (emals to those accounts will be forwarded for awhile yet). This affected me because I had a few email addresses that were provided through Vodafone after 2006 when the company bought the New Zealand Internet Service Provider we used at the time, ihug (also known as “The Internet Group”; the acronym stands for the “Internet Home Users Group”). By then, we’d been with the ISP for ten years. That means that I had that original email address for more than 21 years (the others somewhat less) when it ended.

Over the years, I’ve added a lot of email addresses, ones I’ve used for different purposes. But even though I still have many email addresses I can use, it feels weird to be losing the one that was a constant for most of the time I’ve lived in New Zealand. I didn’t still use the addresses for anything other than some email alerts I got for products, services, and news organisations (most of which I’d been receiving since before Vodafone’s acquisition, some since near to 1996). It’s been that way for quite a few years now. The thing is, I got that soon-to-be-gone email address when everything about New Zealand was still new to me, so it feels weird to be losing it.

The address I used when I first came to New Zealand was one I’d set up with Apple Computer’s eWorld online service while I still lived in Chicago. Apple closed the service down in March, 1996, some six months after I arrived in New Zealand, and that was why we got an account with ihug.

It’s hard to remember how things were back then. It wasn’t easy to get extra email addresses in 1996 because ISPs didn’t provide more than one. Originally, Nigel and I shared the email address, something I can’t imagine doing now.

Hotmail (now called Outlook dot com) was launched July 4, 1996, some four months after we joined ihug, and it was created specifically so people could have email addresses independent of ISPs. RocketMail was also launched in 1996, and then its parent company was acquired by Yahoo! in 1997 and the service was rebranded as Yahoo! Mail. I set up my Yahoo! Mail address (the address I use for this blog) in 1999 as we prepared for a trip to visit the USA. It was the second email address I’d set-up after moving to New Zealand. I still have that one.

Throughout the 1990s, it was common for people to have the same email address—and to share it—for many years. People also didn’t switch ISPs all that often, so for a long time they didn’t change email addresses often either. That all started to change as ISPs started permitting more than one email address, and as people started to buy their own domains and email hosting. In 2004, Google launched Gmail, and it finally ended beta testing and went public in 2009. I remember when I was finally able to get a Gmail address, and that was sometime after it went public.

So much has changed over the years. The ISP we switched to in 1996, ihug, is largely forgotten now, though it once was a kind of a big deal. Vodafone itself is rumoured to be in trouble, and looking to exit New Zealand or merge with another company. And email itself is both ubiquitous and temporary: Most people add or delete email addresses all the time, even if only as they change jobs.

I spent about a month going through emails sent to my ihug email addresses, trying to update the ones I wanted to keep, unsubscribing from the ones I didn’t want. There were some that I couldn’t change, so I unsubscribed, including: Democrats (had to create an account; that option didn’t exist back when I signed up for email alerts), Democrats Abroad, Organising for Action (OFA), Dick Smith (online retailer), Chicago Tribune (I was able to change the address, but emails kept going to old email address, anyway. I unsubscribed and then the emails switched to the new address), and AA Smartfuel (again, I was able to change the address, but emails kept going to the old email address, anyway. I unsubscribed.) Similarly, I changed Adobe, but kept getting emails—even ones about my account—to the old address. I contacted their help system, they told me they had the correct address, but he manually purged the old address from their systems. Now I’m not getting any emails at all. Sigh. This sort of thing ought to be much easier by now.

On the other hand, I was could easily change some, including: New York Times, Disqus, and Countdown (NZ supermarket).

I’m actually kind of surprised these addresses lasted this long before being closed down. I’ve barely used them for years, and I don’t actually need them anymore. And yet, there was that one address I’ve had for more than two decades, a thing that was a constant over all that time, and it will now be going away. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. eWorld was gone less than a year after I joined it. The ISP we joined to replace eWorld was acquired by Vodafone, but service continued. But now the last remaining technological tie to my earliest days in New Zealand is going away, too, and that’s the first of its kind for me. It’s unlikely anything exactly like this will happen again.

So, here’s to a first and last event of its kind, all in one.


rogerogreen said...

You reminded me - I haven't checked my AOL in months!

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

I'd laugh, but I always used to forget to check Gmail accounts…