Rohan Jayasekera's thoughts on the evolving use of computers -- and the resulting effects

Occasional thoughts by Rohan Jayasekera of Toronto, Canada.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I've been online since 1971 and I like to smoothe the way for everyone else. Among other things I co-founded Sympatico, the world's first easy-to-use Internet service (and Canada's largest).

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Putting my income where my mouth is

As I blogged a few months ago, I recommend that you store your email not on your own desktop/laptop computer, but rather on a server that you can access over the Internet, and that if you prefer to do your email using an email program (like Outlook Express or Apple Mail or Thunderbird) rather than through a Web browser, you should use IMAP on an email service that supports it.

Well, on Monday I started working at Tucows as Director, Tucows Email Service.

Some of you may remember Tucows as the original software download site on the Internet; I used it as far back as 1994. Today, Tucows the company still runs that site but also does a number of other things. Its largest business is now to provide services for resale by over 7,000 ISPs and web hosting companies. The largest reseller service is domain registration; Tucows is actually one of the world’s largest domain registrars! Also in the area of domains is SSL certificates: your website will need one of those if it’s going to provide https:// access, e.g. if people can buy things by giving a credit-card number.

Then there’s the Tucows Email Service, which is my main focus. ISPs and web hosting companies need to provide email to their customers, but doing it themselves means having to keep an email system working reliably around the clock, with spam filtering and antivirus protection. The most recent Email Metrics Report from the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group, of which Tucows is a supporting member, showed 86.7% of all email as “abusive”, meaning spam. You may think that the spam that’s directed at you largely gets diverted to your spam folder, but you’re not even seeing the additional email that is so obviously junk that it doesn’t even get put in your spam folder! The spammers are always coming up with new tricks, and the total challenge of running an email service well means that it’s an activity best left to those who specialize in it. Even Bell Sympatico, Canada’s largest ISP (I co-founded Sympatico back in 1995), which had a perfectly decent email system, upon forming a partnership agreement with Microsoft chose to migrate to a Microsoft-hosted email system for the future. So the Tucows Email Service is an excellent way for ISPs and web hosting companies to provide quality email to their customers, complete with 99.99% uptime guarantee. So far it has resellers on three continents; I’d aim for all seven except that I don’t think Antarctica has an Internet industry.

My other focus is the fairly new Personal Names Service, a unique offering that’s built on top of the Tucows Email Service and also makes use of Tucows’ specialty in domains. Suppose your name is Yvonne Desjardins and you have a typical email address like (slightly misspelled to foil spammers) or What if your ISP contacts you and tells you that you can have for a small fee per year? You might well be interested. That’s what the Personal Names Service does, via its collection of about 40,000 domains such as (It doesn’t own anything for the surname Jayasekera – I guess my surname isn’t all that popular in certain countries!)

One of the interesting opportunities here is to make Web-based email access even better than using an email program installed on your computer. Webmail always used to be the ghetto version of email; you’d use it only because your email service was free and accessible only though webmail (and not very nice webmail either), or because you didn’t have your computer with you. Gmail was the first large-scale email system that aimed to provide a high-quality web interface, but as much as I admire what they’ve done, the fact is that I’ve never used my Gmail account very much. As I wrote in that earlier post, I’ve always preferred to use an email program, so if even I can be converted to preferring webmail that will be a good sign.

I’m very excited about this new job. When I first used email about 35 years ago, it was much better than it is now: if I sent an email, I could be sure that it would reach its recipients (unless they were avoiding their email of course!), and there was nothing annoying about email either. Plus I could retract emails that I had already sent. Now, email is more important than ever, but it’s deteriorated. I will do what I can to help make email great again.