Do email addresses die? TL;DR? Yes, and...

Okay, so it should be obvious to everyone nowadays that email addresses die. They go dormant because the users on the other end of that mailbox have given up on that mailbox; haven't checked it in a long amount of time, for whatever reason. That's an easy question to answer.

The harder question is, when do email addresses die? Or when do internet service providers (ISPs) and mailbox providers (MBPs) deactivate inactive email accounts? That varies greatly. By ISP/MBP and by scenario. And not every mailbox provider wants to publicize this information. But here's what we do know.

Google recently announced that they'll retire dormant accounts after two years of inactivity, and have been emailing every single Google user about this to let them know.

Comcast indicates here that if you're no longer a paying Comcast customer, you get to keep your email address -- as long as you accessed it at least once in the prior 90 days before disconnect, and as long as you continue to access that mailbox at least once every nine months. You can also find information on their "not our customer" and "account closed" bounces here.

Yahoo says that after twelve months of inactivity, your account can no longer receive new emails and all mailbox contents will be deleted. You can re-activate a closed Yahoo account for a period of time, as noted here. They don't explicitly say this, but I know from experience that they do purge inactive/closed email accounts from their system periodically.

According to Macworld, Apple indicates, via the iCloud terms and conditions, that they will terminate accounts after a year of inactivity. says that free email accounts are considered inactive after six months of no login activity and that these accounts will then be marked for deletion.

ProtonMail says that they "may" deactivate accounts inactive for twelve months or longer.

Got other ISP/MBP account deactivation information to share? Leave it in comments below.

And remember to "respect the bounce." When an address starts bouncing with mailbox closed, deleted, inactive, no such user, etc., there truly is nobody home and continuing to hammer with attempts to send to that address does a sender no good, and can leave to bad things happening. Sometimes dead addresses are repurposed into spamtrap addresses, or sometimes they end up in the hands of new users, meaning you're either mailing your way into the wrong inbox, or aiming for blocklist problems.

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