"Email Address Space"

It occured to me, while I was working on the registration component of the downloadable music service I am working on, that so much of the web is based around your email address.

And it occured to me that web services like Hotmail and Yahoo can never retire your email address.

Sure, they say, they will discontinue your email service if you don't login for a long time. Maybe they do. But I doubt they delete your email address from their database and make it available to anyone else.

Businesses can and do recycle email addresses. Bob works for the company when it is small, leaves, his email is deleted, and then another Bob joins. Odds are, the new Bob will get the old Bob's email address.

Who knows what the old Bob might have signed up for? Who knows what might show up in the new Bob's email box?

Maybe businesses shouldn't recycle email addresses. Maybe, like famous jersey numbers, email addresses should always be issued one time to one person.

A person can always give his email address away to someone else. But I suspect Yahoo or Hotmail knows that nothing good can result from recycling email addresses and so they don't.

I recently signed up for X-Drive. X-Drive is an online disk service that you can use for backups for sharing. I had originally signed up for X-Drive many moons ago during the Internet Bubble.

X-Drive still remembered me, based on my email address, even though it had totally transformed over the years into a pay service. Imagine if some random person's email address was recycled by Hotmail or Yahoo and given to me. I go to X-Drive, naively believing it has never heard of me, and I can't register because "that name is taken" - the previous owner of the email address is still registered at X-Drive. So I ask X-Drive to send me the password. Now I have access to the previous person's account.

That doesn't seem so good.

So, I suspect that if it was possible somehow to plot the density of "Email Address Space" it would never contract and would always expand, because smart email hosting companies would never recycle an old email address. If the original owner stopped using it, then that would be the end of the line for that email address, never to see the light of electronic bits flying through Cyberspace again.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.