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I learned a new term this week, and talk about what I think is really going on.

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Domain Envy? Or Domain Snobs?

Hello everyone, this is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary and answers to some of the many questions I get at

This week I heard a new term: domain envy. It's supposed to apply to folks with email addresses at domains like and others. The thinking is that they are, or should be, envious of others who have more prestigious domains for their email addresses.

I look at it the other way around. I think there's a lot of domain snobbishness going on. It works like this: email coming from a or address is not taken seriously because the sender is likely either:

  • Spamming, since a lot of spam seems to come from these domains
  • Fake, because a lot of people, spam and viruses spoof their email as coming from these domains
  • A child, since most children don't pay for their own accounts, and hence use free services

Or lastly

  • A neophyte, someone who is barely computer literate or just doesn't know any better.

Based on my experiences here on Ask Leo! I have to sort of agree on that last one. The majority of my "newbie" questions do seem to come from the free email accounts. Similarly, if someone asks a question that was clearly and obviously answered on the top of the very page they're entering the comment on, there's a high probability that it's a hotmail or yahoo user.

AOL suffers a similar stigma, since it's targeted at the non-technical user. Sadly, I even know of one extremely large mailing list that will not accept subscriptions from AOL subscribers, claiming that the maintenance and hand-holding required is simply too much, and not worth it.

I've commented before on the worth of free email accounts, or the lack there of. For better or for worse, I see this as yet another reason to spend a few bucks each month for a "real" email address. And probably not AOL.

Have a comment? Visit the shownotes at by entering 6709 in the go to article number box. Add your comments to the discussion, I'd love to hear from you.

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Article C2344 - May 1, 2005 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
Greg Bulmash
May 3, 2005 10:36 AM

I have to agree that there is some domain snobbery against hotmail and AOL users, and that, to an extent, it is deserved.

On the other hand, there are some prize e-mail addresses, like Google's Because they're not free to just anyone, they've developed a certain sort of geek cred. Having a g-mail account is more prestigious than having your own domain and having e-mail at it.

In the end, it just reminds me of Dr. Seuss's Sneetches ( ).

- Greg

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