123Webmaster.com : Onsite : General
Email is Email, Right?

by Jason M. DesRoches

If you're looking for free email, then there are some things that you need to know before you sign up for an account. There are a few different types of free email services these days, and while it won't cost you anything to sign up for the wrong one, it can still be quite frustrating. 

The first type of email service being offered is HTML based, or web based, email. This is the simplest kind of email to have, as it is easy to access anywhere in the world, from any computer that has Internet access, and a web browser (such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer). The interface for web based email is set up through a simple looking web page. Once you sign up for such a service, you simply return to the web site whenever you want to access your mail. Features of web based email have become quite powerful and may include message attachments, multiple recipients (this is what the cc box is for, it stands for carbon copy, and many addresses may be included, separated by commas), folder management, the ability to check outside pop email accounts, support for HTML, and even different types of stationary. However, there is a down side as well. Because the messages from your web based email account are stored on a server with limited space, the maximum amount of space that your messages can occupy are limited, usually to around three or four megabytes of space. If your account uses more space than allowed, it will be disabled from sending or receiving additional mail until you have cleared space by deleting old messages. Some web based email services also require you to log in at least every four months, or they will expire your account, and the address that you choose will become once again available to the public.

The next type of free email that is offered is POP email. A POP account works differently than web based email in that your messages are downloaded off of a server onto your local drive. This allows you to archive your old messages, because the only space being used is your own. If you work with large files, such as graphics, a POP email account is a must. However, in order to use a POP email account you will need an email client. A client is a type of software that communicates with a POP email server to download mail messages, and clean them off of the server. Many software companies currently offer free email clients in a freeware and shareware version, including Microsoft. A small amount of configuration is also necessary in order to use your email client. Documentation for this is usually available from the POP account service, or in the help menu of the software itself. The types of features that you can use with a POP email account are usually more advanced that web based email, and are limited only by the software that you are using. The downside to POP email is that it is not as easily accessible from computers that you have not set up to read your account. However, if you are away from home, some web based email services now allow you to check your outside POP accounts as well.

Finally, there are mail forwarding services that offer free accounts. The premise behind using a forwarding service is simple, if you plan on using different email accounts (either POP or web based) because of school, work, etc., you simply give out your forwarding account as your primary account to your contacts, and it will send your mail wherever you specify. This way, you can change your account without ever informing your contacts of your new information; you simply update the information on your forwarding account.

Hopefully, you will now be more informed on the types of free email services being offered, and you will be able to choose the type that is right for you. Still confused? Just browse our email directory, and look through the different services that are offered, sign up for a few to test out, and you'll be writing home in no time.

Discussion - Free & Commercial Services