From Mailchimp to Buttondown

I’m switching email marketing software for two reasons:

  1. You, the reader, deserve to subscribe to a service that respects your privacy
  2. I, the creator, need a service that respects my privacy by default

Where does Mailchimp stand?

Mailchimp has fallen short of my requirements for several reasons. First, they require everyone to include a physical address. This is because of CAN-SPAM laws, which I’ve accepted as industry standard after hearing about them for so long. But I’m starting to doubt if the physical address is actually stopping spammers. After all, Mailchimp doesn’t verify addresses with physical mail or a confirmation code.

The address requirement causes many creators to unwittingly expose their home addresses. Ironically, the CAN-SPAM requirement might subject them to spam (junk mail), identity theft, or worse. I’d argue this is a dark UX pattern. Mailchimp doesn’t make it clear enough that the address shows up on archive pages, list info pages, and every email footer. You don’t even have to be a subscriber to see it. While there are ways to remove your address from most places, you can’t actually remove it everywhere. This is problematic to non-tech savvy users and individuals who do not have a business address.

Buttondown’s Virtual Address

Buttondown goes above and beyond here by providing their virtual mailbox for creators to use. I think this is as revolutionary as WHOIS protection for domains. Even if a creator has a business address, why should they have to display it to the public (globally) just to send emails? As far as I know, Buttondown is the only EMS that provides this novel solution.

What about reader privacy?

Both Mailchimp and Tinyletter (owned by Mailchimp) collect tons of personal information and share it with advertisers. These tracking features are enabled by default, and include IP address, device information, usage data including “mouse movements”, and embed cookies on readers’ devices. They also “obtain information about you from third-party sources, such as social media platforms, and third-party data providers”. In plain English, this means they’re creating ad profiles using info from Facebook and other data brokers for each list subscriber. And that’s not something you can opt out of.

No Tracking by Default

Buttondown excels here by opting out of analytics by default. As an indie company (run by one person), there is no corporate interest in sharing data. From the FAQ, “Buttondown doesn’t really collect that much data (from you or from your subscribers), and it certainly doesn’t give that data to anyone.”

Buttondown’s default is to not collect subscriber data

More Privacy Settings

Buttondown is also GDPR compliant by default. Mailchimp requires a custom form and all kinds of other nonsense to be GDPR compliant.

Buttondown also respects your right to delete data, offering to delete uploaded images from S3 buckets manually. You can also do this yourself via the API. Wow.

Moving away from Javascript

And how many developers respond to the question “Do my archives require JavaScript?” with “Unfortunately, yes” ??? A developer after my own heart????!

Every micro decision made by Justin at Buttondown considers privacy and transparency. Even the choice of hCaptcha for a future captcha program respects privacy.

What’s next?

When I first started this blog back in December, I chose Mailchimp because I was most familiar with it, and I knew it had a free tier. But Buttondown is just better. You only have to pay $5/mo for >1000 subscribers, while Mailchimp starts at $9.99 for >2000 subscribers. So even though I’m not at that list size yet, I am already 100% down with growing with Buttondown.

I’ll be porting over my existing list to Buttondown (and my old Tinyletter too), so if you’re a subscriber you can expect a new email format soon! And I’m excited about using tags so you can opt in or out of categories and topics.

If you want to sign up via my affiliate link (first one on the blog so far, still no Javascript trackers1), I’d get a commission and I’d be grateful for your support!

pandemically yours,2


  1. The reason I didn’t want to support affiliate links in the first place was because many affiliate plugins use Javascript to crawl your content and track viewers. Since Buttondown doesn’t store tons of viewer data and isn’t influenced by advertisers, this is morally permissible given my privacy standards. I’ll still update the About page to reflect the fact that I might sometimes put affiliate links though ↩︎
  2. ↩︎

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