I’ve had a gmail account since as long as there have been gmail accounts. I remember waiting eagerly for an invite and asking around on the pre-facebook and pre-reddit internet for a hook up to this crazy new email service.
When I finally got my invite I picked the name I always do – muddylemon. Of course, that’s not the most professional looking name, so I used one of my first invites to invite myself to create lckidwell@.
After a couple of weeks of logging in twice, I realized I could just forward all the email from one address to the other and only login to the main account. I set it up to forward everything from lckidwell@ to muddylemon@ and then – this is a crucial point – I set the reply-to of muddylemon@ to lckidwell@. This means that when I emailed or replied to anyone from muddylemon@ I was instructing the recipient’s email client to reply to lckidwell@ where it would then be forwarded on.
Fast forward 10 years, specifically to some time in mid-2014, when the lckidwell@ account was compromised. One of the things google does when it suspects an account has been hacked is to refuse any email sent or forwarded from that account. Notice of this action was sent to the affected account and then, of course, forwarded to the email account I check every day where it was summarily rejected by the mail server and never read.
Today I noticed that the email I have associated with the domain was not arriving in my main account. It was being forwarded to lckidwell@ which had been silently failing for almost 2 years.
Tracking down that error led me to signing into the lckidwell@ account for the first time in years and discovering literally thousands of orphaned emails.
Most of the emails were commercial newsletters that I never missed. A few were something else though. You remember how I had set the reply-to of my main email to this broken account? Every reply to every email I sent from my main account had been caught in this trap. Every email that I had thought had gone unanswered was sitting there – sometimes with confused follow-ups wondering why I had abandoned the conversation.
Emails sent directly to this account were affected as well, including every email my mother had sent to me for the past two years and a number of expired gift cards that I never knew had been sent.
So, in short, when it comes to communications technology, the fewer parts the better and pick up a phone now and then.