I recently set up a mail server (complete with SMTP, IMAP, POP protocols and a roundcube webmail interface) on my own home server (an ancient ~10 year old Pentium 4 laptop). I have accounts for myself and a few close friends with whom I communicate by mail frequently.
It feels so liberating to send mail without gmail. Even with PGP encryption, gmail can still read the Subject from the mail headers. Besides, they would also have metadata about time of communication, social graph, etc.
Currently, gmail and other mail servers will not accept mail from my server. This is because my internet connection is a standard dynamic DNS broadband (ADSL) connection, and for fear of spam they do not authorize these IPs to send mail. This does seem like internet censorship to me. It makes more sense to use greylisting and good client side spam filtering instead of outright censoring mail like this. Anyways, I plan to move to a static IP connection soon, and should be able to solve this problem.
The few close friends who have accounts on my server are the people I communicate most with, and the fact that google can no longer know what I talk to them is a very good thing for my privacy. Also, I have set my own mail server email address as the notification address for this discourse forum as well. So, even the notifications from this forum, I get via my own mail server. Needless to say, this is really cool!
I post this here because there seems to be a prevalent view that running home servers is too difficult and it takes an IaaS provider to maintain good uptime. I have successfully run my home server for 2 to 3 years now with a number of other services as well. Things haven’t been perfect, things haven’t always been easy, but at the end of the day, I was able to do it sufficiently well enough. Therefore, I think that more of us should try and emulate this model.
There are several privacy/freedom respective mail services as well, but I don’t think they will ever be able to scale to millions of users like google servers can. We would only be putting too much load on a few people if we take that route. It makes more sense and is definitely better for freedom to have a decentralized internet.
Thank you for reading. Comments and questions please.