You Must Be A Friend opens up your Gmail (or Google hosted email) to the public, with a choice of what to make visible: inbox, drafts, sent mail or all of the above. You will be assigned a random username which you can then change to something more memorable. You can disable your You Must Be A Friend account at any time and your emails will no longer be visible.


Personal content that was long private has become content for public consumption and scrutiny. What would happen if email worked this way as well? Let’s find out.


Ian Van Ness spends his days contemplating the meaning of life, working on future projects that concern the intersection of digital culture and art, and being deeply immersed in the public virtual world as the Senior Platform Engineer at Gawker Media. He initiated this project after he revisited a 4+ year old journal idea. You can contact him via email (ian at you must be a friend dot com ) or view his email.


  • design: jory stiefel

  • copy: alicia kachmar

  • ongoing inspiration: mater/pater familia, e.m. and every other positive influence that i surround myself with

  • "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be." - Kurt Vonnegut