I finally cracked over Google ads earlier this week. It was more the blatant lies than anything. I was looking up pictures of the aurora in a separate Chrome window, after which I returned to my Gmail inbox and proceeded to read a very uninteresting email on car insurance.
A Google ad popped up above my email. ‘See the Aurora now! Only £799!’ The ads had slowly been forcing me towards my tolerance limit over the past few months, and so this time, I decided to click on the ‘Why this ad?’ button next to it. I was taken to a page which firmly stated,
‘You have been shown this ad because it directly relates to the email you were just viewing.’
Oh, I think not. I complained, in full knowledge that one complaint was not going to make the ads stop coming, but nontheless I just wanted to vent my frustration at their lack of transparency.
My tipping point, which led me to choosing another email aggregator entirely, came when I started getting ads enticing me to join the Open University – while I was opening emails informing me of my recent Open University exam results.
I did some research, and am now happy, for I have found… ALTERNION.
Alternion is an alternative email and social network aggregator. God, I love aggregators. I admit I was actually using Gmail as an aggregator for my other email accounts, it’s much handier than logging in to each separate site.
So far I have only used Alternion to collate my email accounts together in one place, so I can’t comment on how it handles the social media side of things. But as for email, it does the job well, the interface is slick, and best of all THERE ARE NO ADVERTS! It’s all kinds of sweet. I’m actually able to concentrate on my emails properly again, without distraction.
Alternion automatically connects your accounts via IMAP, so you don’t lost email data on the original servers. This is based on my experience adding a couple of Gmail and Hotmail accounts though, so double-check it’s IMAP if and when you do it.
My only criticism of Alternion so far is that the website is not responsive – as a huge responsive design advocate, I like to be able to fluidly change the sizes of the browser windows I’m working in, I like to access my accounts on the go, via smartphone or tablet, I like to have maximum accessibility. There’s a very good reason why Alternion cannot do this yet – it is a very young project and is only in beta at the moment. I am very interested in seeing what comes next for it!
In closing, email providers should have more discretion when deciding to advertise. The algorithms should avoid certain triggering things, some obvious ones are cancer, terminal illness, death. Basically, algorithms determining which ads to show should always include a human factor, an emotive factor, otherwise they are doomed to fail, like the Facebook deceased friend recommendations debacle.