Gmail Aliases for Better Email Organization

Gmail has an interesting characteristic that falls somewhere between “really cool feature” and “strange parsing bug”, depending on how you want to look at it. Whatever the underlying cause, the end result is that you can create custom aliases to your Gmail account that can be used to help differentiate your accounts. There are two different ways. The first one is the appended alias.

Your normal Gmail address can have an extension added, and the result still comes to your primary account. For instance, if your main account is and you’re registering for the New York Times web site, you could enter and the results would still be delivered. This doesn’t work on all sites, of course, as some won’t allow a + in their e-mail fields if they’re using older parser code that doesn’t take into account all characters that can be in a modern email address. It’s useful to see who’s selling your address or violating their privacy policy, too. Just register as, ,, etc.  This behavior is intentional.

The second behavior, which I believe is unintentional, is delimiter invariance. In most e-mail systems, “” and “” are treated as unique identifiers. They may be bound to the account on the back end. Gmail appears to use complete delimiter invariance in their systems, though. My e-mail address does not currently contain any separators, but if I sent e-mail to, f.irstname, firstnam.e, or even they all route to my primary e-mail account. This is especially interesting because another Internet user in another part of the country with a similar name, has registered the same e-mail address. Gmail allows periods when creating the account, but ignores them. I occasionally get e-mail directed to this other individual because of this issue.

Combining these two, you can sort and filter your e-mail a bit before it even reaches your inbox by making your address uniquely identifiable. It’s a pretty neat feature.

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