The deluge of emails hitting our inboxes shows no signs of stopping or slowing down maybe ever, so if your email service of choice is going to be in any way usable, it’s crucial that you take steps to protect your primary addresses. There are now numerous options for doing this, and you should be able to find at least one that fits in with your workflow.
We’ve listed some options below, which you can use beyond the obvious strategy of simply creating a secondary email address that you use for less important communications — a tried and trusted approach that still works today. The idea with aliases, as we’ll outline below, is that they’re more convenient and easier to create (and delete) than entire email addresses.
Gmail’s alias options aren’t particularly sophisticated, but they’re simple, free, and useful in certain scenarios. As we’ve explained before, you can add periods anywhere in your Gmail email address, and messages sent to them will still arrive in your inbox. If your email address is email@example.com, you’ll get emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com for example.
Another option — though one that forms seem to be less willing to accept — is to add a plus symbol and then the text of your choice after your main email handle but before the @ sign. So you could use aliases like firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com for example. There’s no need to ‘create’ or ‘delete’ these aliases: They’re just available for you whenever you need them.
You need to use these aliases with Gmail filters to get the most out of them (use the Create filter link in the search box at the top of Gmail on the web). So, you could apply a certain label to emails coming into a particular alias, or you could mark these emails as read and automatically archive them, or you could send them to the trash.
If you’ve signed up for a free email address with Yahoo, you get a generous 500 disposable email addresses to use, though they all need to start with the same randomly assigned nickname that Yahoo gives you (some nonsensical mix of letters and numbers). You can add ‘newsletters’ to one disposable address for example, and ‘shopping’ to another, and so on and so on.
Unlike the Gmail aliases, these ones need to be specifically created. From your Yahoo email inbox on the web, click the cog icon (top right) and then choose More settings. Select Mailboxes and you’ll see the alias options under the Disposable email address heading. Click Add, and you’re able to set up the address, and assign it a display name and a description if you want to.
Once you’re finished with a temporary email address, you can get rid of it: Select any of the addresses in your list, then click Delete address, and it’s gone forever. Aside from the nickname you get assigned — which you can’t change — this is actually one of the best alias options out there, with hundreds of free disposable email addresses to choose from.
The alias system that comes along with the Outlook address linked to your Microsoft account is similar to the one that Yahoo offers, but Microsoft only gives you 10 disposable email addresses, rather than 500. In this case you can pick whatever you’d like to appear before the ‘@outlook.com’ part of the email address.
The easiest way to create aliases is to go to your Microsoft account page on the web. Click Your info, then Edit account info, and you can add and remove email addresses linked to your account. All you need to provide is the email address you want to use, and Microsoft takes care of the rest. One alias must also be set as your primary alias, which you can do from the same screen.
These are pretty advanced aliases, too. You can sign into Windows with them, and send emails from them as well as receiving messages. When you remove an email address, it’s gone forever and can’t be recycled, so make sure you definitely want to get rid of it before wiping it (this also means it can be difficult to find email addresses that haven’t already been claimed).
Apple Hide My Email
iCloud supports basic aliases in a similar way to Yahoo and Outlook. If you load up iCloud on the web, then go into the Mail component, you can click the gear icon (top left) and then Accounts to configure up to a maximum of three email aliases: These can be any @icloud.com addresses you like, and you can give each one a label to help you differentiate between them.
Hide My Email is something different, and creates email addresses that are far more disposable: You can create and delete them more easily, and you get a randomised collection of numbers and characters given to you, so you can’t specify the address that you get. You can’t send messages from these disposable addresses like you can from a full alias — they’re basically just there to add as an extra layer on top of your main inbox.
If you’re paying Apple for iCloud storage, you get Hide My Email as part of iCloud+, and you can create new email addresses from iCloud on the web or any of your Apple devices in iCloud settings. If you’re not paying for iCloud, you can still use Hide My Email, but only on sites and in apps that support Sign In with Apple.
Firefox is so much more than just a web browser these days, and one of the services that has been spun out of the main software application is Firefox Relay. The idea is more or less the same as Hide My Email, letting you create disposable email addresses that forward to your main address, and which you can create and delete as needed.
From the Firefox Relay site, you can generate up to five aliases for free. You get a random combination of letters and numbers followed by @mozmail.com, and Firefox Relay will tell you how many emails have passed through the address since you created it. You’ll also need to specify an actual, real email address that these messages get passed on to. If you use Firefox as your browser, you’ll be able to enter one of your aliases with a couple of clicks whenever you’re filling out a web form.
If you really like the service that Firefox is providing here, you can sign up for Firefox Relay Premium for $1 a month. That gives you access to an unlimited number of email aliases, the option to reply from your aliases, and (almost) full control over what exactly these email addresses are.
DuckDuckGo Email Protection
DuckDuckGo is all about privacy, so of course it has its own email alias service, called DuckDuckGo Email Protection. It’s still in private beta, but you can request an invite. Install the DuckDuckGo app for Android or iOS, then choose Email Protection from the app’s settings page to get started with the service.
You get a free, personal @duck.com email address, which acts as a forwarding email address for an account (like Gmail or Yahoo) that you already have. You can add multiple disposable email addresses on top of these for extra protection — you can’t choose what these randomised addresses are, but they’re simple to create and delete.
Your email aliases can be managed through the various DuckDuckGo apps and browser extensions, and this being DuckDuckGo, all tracking technologies are stripped from incoming emails before they’re delivered to you. It’s possible that the service will eventually involve a monthly subscription, but for now it’s free.
We’ve written before about the benefits of Protonmail, and the privacy-focused email service can give you a series of aliases as well. However, to get these extra addresses, you need to be a paying customer. Prices start at about $US6 (A$8) a month, which gets you five additional email addresses.
From the Protonmail interface on the web, click Settings, Go to settings, and Identity & addresses to manage your aliases. You can specify everything in front of the @protonmail.com address, assuming your choice hasn’t already been taken, and you can send messages from your aliases as well as using them as a way of receiving messages.
Your aliases can be disabled and deleted from the same screen, at which point any messages sent to them will be returned to the sender — which is how the other services on this list operate too. It’s probably not a strong enough feature to make you switch to Protonmail, but it’s handy if you’re an existing user.
Masked Email is a somewhat niche option, because you need to be using both Fastmail and 1Password already — but if that’s you, it’s worth a look. The service doesn’t cost anything extra, though of course Fastmail and 1Password do, so check out the wealth of features and functionality you get in return to decide if it’s worth your while.
If you decide to make use of Masked Email, you can generate an unlimited number of random, disposable email addresses that simply forward messages on to your main email inbox. You don’t get any control over what these addresses are, and you can’t send email from them or use them as you would your main email address.
One of the key benefits of this option is convenience. With the 1Password extension installed on all your devices, you can very easily create a new email address when you’re signing up for something online or inside an app. What’s more, if a particular email address becomes a problem, it can be quickly disabled from inside Fastmail.
A Few More Options
There are even more options out there if none of the ones we’ve mentioned are a good fit. It’s perhaps a sign of just how cluttered and crowded our inboxes have become that so many services exist to help you keep your primary email address safe from spam and unimportant messages.
SimpleLogin is an independent and open-source service that’s worth checking out, and you can get 15 aliases for free (pay $US4 (A$6) a month for an unlimited number). It integrates well with web browsers and smartphones, and you can send messages from your aliases, too. On the downside, they’re completely random — you can’t choose the addresses that you get with SimpleLogin.
Another popular and well-known choice is AnonAddy, which matches SimpleLogin in a lot of areas: It too is built on open source software, and allows you to send messages from your aliases. You get the choice of completely random addresses or you can choose your own, and you can create an unlimited number of random aliases for free — although there are monthly bandwidth limits.
This article has been updated since it was first published.