When I started cock.li in the student center of my university, I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew e-mail services were permanent, but did not grasp the gravity of what that meant. I'm still surprised that I signed myself up for this. And yet, I'm glad I did.
Happy birthday to this crazy fucking place. For ten years, cock.li has made e-mail a more enjoyable part of life. Not in ease of use, or deliverability, or availability... if anything cock.li made all those worse for everyone who's used it. No, the fact that I can still get a chuckle thinking about someone expecting a serious e-mail and seeing "@cock.li" makes it all worth it.
And I mean everything. There are great personal costs to running this place, but everything has just taught me why it needs to stick around, and why it should be open to everyone. In celebration of cock.li's birthday and its re-opening, I'd like to reflect back on some of the more positive influences cock.li has had over the last decade.
The first time I knew this place was being put to good use is when I got an e-mail from someone in a country known for their very restricted Internet. They were thankful to have easy access to uncensored e-mail as it allowed them to speak freely. Being able to open an e-mail account without connecting to other identity systems is a critical component of the free Internet, and I got to see why. Cock.li is blocked in multiple oppressive countries for this reason, but as of writing, not this one.
You don't need anything but an Internet connection to use cock.li. If all you had was a library card you could use a public computer to get an e-mail account. It's a strange thing to say about a joke website, but cock.li improves access to services for marginalized people globally, without connecting into some corporate system.
People use e-mail for everything, and anything you can use e-mail for people have done it on cock.li. People have met and got married after e-mailing on cock.li, and more than one couple would not have met if cock.li didn't exist. I was so touched to hear about these. I may have been moved even more by the bulk mass of stories from people who didn't realize they would end up in a situation of having to read their e-mail address over the phone, or in front of relatives. Or to a doctor. Or a bank teller. What a hoot!
I've never got so much laughter out of anything in my life than my time here. It's not even close. The funniest e-mails I've ever read were sent on cock.li, some of them to me directly. I'm the worst at responding, but I read every e-mail you send me. Every password reset request, every schizo ramble, every question, every story. My favorite in recent memory was a guy who was e-mailing on a satellite phone, and was getting timed out unless he put his entire message in the subject, body empty. He sent me a complete description of his situation in one subject line, and I was so amazed I raised the timeout and wrote him back (in the subject, naturally). This fixed the issue, and he sent me a shitty photo of a beautiful island as thanks.
One thing I've always been pleased to see is when people draw inspiration from cock.li for their own service, or even straight up copy pages of text. It's never bothered me, I'm a kopimist. If you're not phishing, who cares? My favorite thing that gets copied is the warrant canary. I see the wording used from time to time, but as far as I know, cock.li is the first website to include a bitcoin block hash in a warrant canary, and that is now common practice. It sure beats copying headlines every month. The first cock.li canary to use this was 14 October 2018, so if anyone knows of it being used earlier, e-mail me! There's a reddit comment which talks about this concept in 2017, and I think that's who I got the idea from after being linked to a sibling comment which mentions cock.li.
I'm so grateful to have an outlet to express my values in the form of poorly-maintained online services. The like-minded people I've met along the way have developed into some of my closest friends, coworkers, and business partners. I'm so thankful to my friends for being there for me, I couldn't have made it this far without them. Thanks for keeping me level. For reminding me what's important. For keeping my mind on COCK.
For sure, the last decade hasn't been easy, and the next 10 years will be harder. People ask me sometimes if cock.li will ever be sold or transferred in some way. Actually, for a while I was hoping to get out of it by 10 years. In looking for a successor I've made some trial runs, but people with the right (in)competence and values wise up when they learn about the personal risks of providing free e-mail. If cock.li ever gets new management it has to be with people I trust so much that they can carry on without making an announcement about it. Naturally, it's a tall order.
But one thing is for sure, cock.li is here to stay. Thank you so much to everyone for making e-mail an absolute blast. Your actions all together have made their mark as a doodle on the course of history.~