My first email account was with AOL back in 1998. I was in middleschool. I can’t remember for the life of me any important email sent to that account, but I remember always logging in and hearing the “You’ve got mail” sound byte. A couple years back, I tried accessing my AOL email and was unsuccessful.
At some point I left AOL for hotmail and eventually MSN messenger. Hotmail was much better than AOL email because you didn’t have to connect to the AOL portal and instead, you could access only your email. I made that switch as a freshman in highschool. It was the first time I heavily depended on email for things like computer parts, games, and keeping track of eBay auctions. Similar to my AOL email inbox, I couldn’t access my hotmail account.
In 2004, I signed up for Gmail beta and it changed the game. Gmail became my primary email account during college, as well as my calendar, word processor, pretty much my everything. It was and continues to be central to everything I do.
If history is telling, something better than Gmail will cause me to change just like I did with @aol.com and @hotmail.com. And just like my @aol.com and @hotmail.com account, its possibly that I will lose a piece of my identity and online presence.
If you care about your digital footprint, spend time thinking about what would happen when Gmail goes away and be proactive in saving your data on services core to your open web experience.