An Email Address Without A Domain Name?

A few years ago, I was in China. A young Chinese girl started talking to me on the street (this was in broad daylight; her interest was entirely innocent). After a few minutes of conversation, she said “do you want my email address?” I said “sure”, and she told me it was “somename030”. This confused me. “somename030 at where?”, I asked. But she genuinely didn’t understand the question.

Even now, I don’t know what she meant – but presumably there was one particularly popular email service in China that “everyone” used, such that in her circles, the culture was to not bother specifying the domain name.

What sort of lock-in does a provider of a service have, when the use of their service, rather than that of a rival, is assumed by everyone who is swapping identifiers? And is that a good thing?

So why is it that people are starting to just say “I’m @person”, without noting that it’s a Twitter name? Other services, such as identi.ca, use similar @names – but if we let Twitter own the namespace for personal identity in this way, I think there’s a risk we’ll end up reinforcing the network effects and perpetuating an unhelpful and un-open market dominance by a single provider. Which, IMO, is bad whoever that provider is.

So when you tell people who you are, please specify the service you are using :-)

5 thoughts on “An Email Address Without A Domain Name?

  1. Theoretically I still have a email account which you could reach me via a uucp bang path address without any domain names. Of course you’ll need to find a working path first (I don’t think UUCP maps are updated any more).

    …!jaring!aleytys!philip

  2. And for companies and organisations, Facebook is taking over. Increasingly adverts are giving URLs as facebook.com/company or just “companyname on Facebook”. But that used to happen with MySpace, and with AOL – it still does to some extent, but people have moved on from them, which suggests that dominance like they had can be overcome.

    Although I agree it would be better if it could all be open and independent of the likes of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, AOL, Google and whoever else…

  3. Handily, when you subscribe to an external StatusNet (identi.ca et al) site, or just want to be explicit about the person you are messaging, you use @nick@domain

    @johndrinkwater@identi.ca

  4. If you’re sending to somebody on the same service, you don’t necessarily NEED a domain name. You can just use local addresses. I had an email address with no domain when I was in college. Of course, it only worked on campus, but back then we didn’t know anybody else who had email anyway. (This was late 1993 or early 1994, so most folks had never heard of the internet. Colleges and universities, other than the ones with big AI labs, were just getting on for the first time. Netscape didn’t exist yet.)

    About a year later the school added off-campus mail capability, but at first students’ mail accounts didn’t automatically work from off-campus: you had to go to the computer center and sign up for off-campus mail, and then they set it up for you. (I guess the main mail server didn’t talk to the internet so they had to set up an account on a separate internet mail server and set up forwarding, or something.) Of course, the off-campus address needed the domain, but we continued to use domainless addresses on campus the whole time I was in school. (I graduated in May of 1997, so I’m not sure what happened with the campus email system after that.)

    > Increasingly adverts are giving URLs as facebook.com/company
    > or just “companyname on Facebook”. But that used to happen
    > with MySpace, and with AOL

    It used to happen a LOT with Compuserve, but that was before internet access became available to ordinary people.