Marketers are still scratching their heads over Verizon’s move to drop 4.5 million verizon.net email addresses, leaving users to fend for themselves. These poor folks have to move to AOL, choose another service or let their accounts be deleted. And they have to do it quickly.
Among the skeptics is Ryan Phelan, head of marketing for Adestra’s U.S. group. He begins with the cautionary statement that “the whole move seems a little harsh and hurried,” but that’s the least of it. “You’ve got to wonder what the impetus is because they’re giving up a lot by this move,” he said.
For one thing, Verizon is surrendering valuable data -- something that could hurt it in a future merger. “Look at all the deals done in the tech world,” Phelan said. “When a Microsoft buys LinkedIn, they’re looking for what kind of data that company has. At the end of the rainbow is the email address that can identify the customer.”
Why is that important?
“At scale, your email address is more than an communication medium,” Phelan said. “”It has the power to unlock every digital interaction you have. It’s more important than your Social Security number. You can ..can go to an Acxiom or Epsilon and pull down a ton of data on an individual based on that address. So if they’re telling people to go away, 'I don’t care who you are,' they’re losing that. I don’t understand the reason.”
But isn’t that mitigated by the fact that Verizon email users can switch to AOL, which is owned by Verizon? Not in Phelan’s view. “You’ve got to give them a compelling reason to move, other than, ‘Get off,’ he said.
He added that while AOL has a capable email service, Gmail remains the most popular email provider, as reflected in a recent study by Adestra. And Gmail will probably benefit by this.
Here’s one caveat: That Phelan is commenting based on “the optics,” or what he has read in media reports, not from any inside knowledge. A Verizon spokesperson had not yet responded to a request for comment at deadline.
If things are what they seem to be, however, Phelan concludes that it is a bad move for Verizon. And he should know, since Adestra has long experience in the email space.
“What we’ve seen in the last three years is that email addresses are at the center of digital marketing, from identity to the ability to send a message to the inbox,” he said. “Email is the thing you rely on for everything in your life — your insurance, your car. Verizon is saying, ‘Move to AOL, but we’re not going to give you any help, and you’re going to lose everything.’ How are consumers going to react to that?”
Of course, Verizon users aren’t the only people losing their email services. Out today is a report from the UK stating that Orange/Freeeserve/Wanado accounts, all introduced about 20 years ago, will be shut down in May, which could hurt businesses that use them.
Among the disappearing domains are “Orange.net, Orangehome.co.uk, Wanadoo.co.uk, Freeserve.co.uk, Fsbusiness.co.uk, Fslife.co.uk, Fsmail.net, Fsworld.co.uk and Fsnet.co.uk.” But some observers seem to think it’s about time
“It’s a minor miracle that Orange/Freeserve/Wanadoo email accounts have lasted so long, but it has enabled you to avoid the action you should have taken in 2005-07,” Jack Schofield writes in The Guardian. “That is, moving to Google’s Gmail, which was launched on 1 April 2004. You could have had a much better email service a decade sooner.”