Changing your e-mail address is (apparently) hard

March 15, 2017

409 words, a 2 minutes read

I recently changed my email address from a to a address. Mainly because I’m using Google’s software anyway and because I can enjoy a much better email client online then. That meant, obviously, changing it on a lot of sites.

Fortunately, I’m using a password manager, so I at least had a listing of accounts I’m still using. Most of the time, it went like this:

  1. Log into the website
  2. Change the email address
  3. Confirm the new address
  4. Done

I also took the opportunity and added +domain to the address I registered, so if I receive spam I at least know where I got it from. Apparently, some sites don’t like that and I had to enter just the normal email address. That’s because a regex for email is hard.

Some other accounts are quite deeply embedded into your actual operating system. I didn’t try changing my Microsoft or my Apple account, nor my PSN account since I feared of getting logged out and losing my purchases. Maybe it works, but I don’t have much trust in it.

On other occasions, I simply could not change my address. On one site I got into a weird account state where it wouldn’t let me confirm my address (it’s already confirmed) but I couldn’t log in too (you need to confirm it). So it seems that that part of the site is not as thoroughly tested…

Some other sites apparently use mail distributors for things like newsletters. This is ok, but it took a while until those distributors got my new address or it hasn’t happened yet aswell. So updating an address needs to go through everywhere.

Some sites just don’t let you change your address. I think they’ve used it as an ID in some database so they can’t change it. The only way here is to create a new account.

You also need to know that you won’t get rid of your old address soon. It’s still around in my GitHub account and will be for years, linking commits signed with my old address to my account. These are hardcoded and can’t be changed.

What I propose (even though I don’t think this will be implemented in the future): a standard interface for changing an e-mail address (and your password while you’re at it). On every site, I spent at least some 10 seconds to 2 minutes to actually finding the screen where I could change it.