A look at the email forwarding service AnonAddy

AnonAddy is an open source email forwarding service designed to protect an Internet user’s email addresses from spam and other unwanted emails.

Most Internet users use one or a handful of email addresses on the Internet. They use these to sign-up for services, do their online shopping, communication, and any other activity that requires an email address (and those that don’t require an email but allow emails to be added to accounts).

The use of a manageable number of email addresses improves manageability but it opens the door for unidentifiable spam, profiling, as well as privacy and security issues.

Using individual email addresses for each service on the Internet would make spam sources identifiable right away, and it would improve privacy and security. Problem is: it is cumbersome to create that many email addresses unless aliases are supported.

Email forwarding services may assist users, and one these is AnonAddy. The service is available in free and paid versions; paid versions offer more features and make things more comfortable to use.

Note: Email that is sent to your email address flows through the service’s servers. The service does support GPG/OpenPGP though. An option to self-host is also provided.

Setup is quite easy: you pick a username and password, add your “real” email address, and verify the email address. Once the account is set up, you may get started using it right away. AnonAddy offers two main options to create aliases:

  1. Create them on the fly using the format [ANYTHING]@username.anonaddy.com. Anything can be any valid email username and the service will create the aliases automatically when the first email arrives that references it.
  2. So-called UUID emails may also be created; these are random email addresses that use the format [email protected] Free accounts are limited to 20 of those, the limit is upgraded to 50 for the Lite plan ($1 per month) and unlimited for the Pro plan ($3 per month).

What happens when emails are sent to an alias or UUID email address? The email is forwarded automatically to the “real” email address.

You may use the dashboard that AnonAddy provides to manage aliases, recipients, domains and usernames. Each alias is listed on the dashboard and you may set these to inactive or trash them in case you no longer need them.

The actual email that arrives in the inbox of your “real” address includes the alias so that you can link spam or other unwanted content that you receive to a specific service.

Recipients are a user’s working email addresses that all the aliases and UUIDs of AnonAddy get forwarded to. Free accounts support up to two, Lite five and Pro 20.

One of the limitations of the free account is that replies are not supported. While you may reply using the “real” email address, it is generally not recommended as you will expose it to the service. Lite and Pro plans support anonymous replies (20 and 100 per day).

Another restriction of the free account that bandwidth is limited to 10MB per month. The developer of the service states that the 10 Megabyte limit is good for around 140 plain text emails per month. Lite and Pro increase the number to 50 MB and 500 MB respectively.

The limit may be sufficient for sign-up activities but probably not for other activity (e.g. conversations per email with others).

AnonAddy’s paid accounts support a number of additional features: Both Lite and Pro benefit from email queue priorities over Free accounts, and both support additional alias domains and custom domains (Lite 1, Pro 5).

Closing Words

AnonAddy is an open source project that anyone can sign-up for or self-host. The free plan works fine for light use cases, e.g. account sign-ups on several Internet sites per month, but users who use it more actively may run into the, rather low, quota sooner than later. That leaves paid plans or self-hosting as the two available options to use the service.

Setup and use of the service is comfortable and straightforward. One issue that especially free users may run into is that spammers may look up the service to protect against detection; the issue is not unique to AnonAddy though and it can be somewhat mitigated in the paid accounts.

You could also use disposable email addresses – if not blocked by the service you want to sign-up for — as one-time email addresses.

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