From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Webmail is a Web application that allow users to access their e-mail through a Web browser, as an alternative to using an e-mail client such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird or Eudora.
The most popular Webmail providers are Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail. Other Webmail providers include Gmail, AIM Mail, Mail.com, Fastmail and Lycos Mail. It is also possible to run Webmail software on one's own Web server. Commercial Webmail software includes Outlook Web Access (OWA), BlueTie, and Atmail. Open-source Webmail software includes Horde IMP, OpenWebmail (based on NeoMail), RoundCube, Zimbra, and SquirrelMail. Many universities and schools use such software to provide students and staff with Web-based access to their email accounts. Also, many Internet Service Providers offer Webmail for their customers.
Most Webmail services have the following features:
- Filtering (incoming e-mail to dispatch to related folder)
- Trash folder
- Address book
Several Webmail services offer the following features:
- E-mail spam detection
- POP3 mail retrieval
- Anti-virus checking of mail attachments
- E-mail forwarding
- Dictionary and thesaurus when composing messages
- Spell checker
Advantages of Webmail services
- E-mail is stored remotely on a server, which means that it is accessible anywhere there is an Internet connection and a Web browser.
- Centralised maintenance of the (Webmail) e-mail client; backups, upgrades and security fixes are done by the administrator. There is no need to install, update and patch local e-mail clients.
- Some Webmail providers offer disposable (spam collection) e-mail addresses. Examples include TrashMail and Mailinator. There are also secure webmail providers like Hushmail that do not store any personal information and send all mails with 128-bit encryption.
Disadvantages of Webmail services
- The user must stay online to read and write more than one e-mail. They cannot easily edit mails they are working on offline (except by copying and pasting the text).
- Commercial Webmail services often offer only limited e-mail storage space and either display advertisements during use or append them to mails sent. Unlike with a local client, the user cannot keep the messages on their local hard drive, though the user usually has the option to download and save important emails to his computer as he sees fit, either manually or through a pop-mail software.
- Most e-mails are usually short, plain text messages of less than 2 kB, by using Webmail the original e-mail is wrapped in the Web site's HTML, which can be 40 kB or more. Obviously this brings a significant decrease in speed of use, especially on a slow network connection.
- Webmail accounts are often targets of spam.
- Webmail accounts are accused of being insecure.
- Free Webmail accounts are often inaccessible to blind users, due to the use of a visual CAPTCHA.
- Webmail usually has speed and functionality limitations relative to other email clients. Part of this is due to limitations of what is possible with html (web pages). For example, when messages are tagged for deletion in the index, these tags are usually lost when one reads a message. Thus one means one cant read a message that you suspect you want to delete (to help decide) without deleting already tagged messages or having to re-tag them. Thus it is more awkward to delete multiple messages.
For providers who do not allow POP3 access a program like FreePOPs may be used with a conventional POP3 client.
Other features of Webmail
- Webmail accounts can be set up with minimum technical competence and can provide independence from one's current ISP as well as a degree of anonymity.
- The ability to access it anywhere means it is harder to trace the individual who uses an account than if they used a connection associated with their home address.
These features mean it can in theory be more easily used as a communication tool for nefarious purposes (or for avoiding oppressive authorities) than conventional e-mail. In practice, most governments' security agencies are fairly easily able to track individuals who try to use such methods, just as with someone who calls from phone booths. Ordinary citizens will find it more difficult, however.
Due to the heavy media coverage of Gmail's initial announcement of 1 gigabyte of storage, many existing Webmail services quickly increased their storage capacity, as did many ISPs. Before Gmail's announcement the largest storage commercial Webmail service was Runbox with 100 MB. Many Webmail services followed Gmail and this was seen as a move to stop existing users from switching, and to capitalize on the newly rekindled public interest in Webmail services. Below is a brief outline of the course of events following Gmail's initial release.
- On March 31, 2004, Gmail was initially released with 1 gigabyte of storage space per user. On April 1st, 2005 (Gmail's first birthday), Gmail increased each user's storage quota to more than 2 gigabytes. This new figure and the original offering of 1000 megabytes are hundreds of times more than what other Webmail services offered at the time of Gmail's original announcement in 2004.
- On April 5, 2004, Spymac became the first open-to-the-public free e-mail service to offer a gigabyte of storage based on the Atmail software.
- On May 29, 2004, the European edition of Lycos raised its paid storage allowance to 1 GB.
- On June 15, 2004, popular web mail competitor Yahoo! Mail increased its free storage space to 100 MB and its paid storage space to 2 GB. (Free storage space for Yahoo! Mail was later increased to 250 MB on December 2, 2004).
- On June 18, 2004, Rediff.com headquartered in Mumbai, India, increased the storage capacity of its free public Rediffmail service to one gigabyte.
- On June 24, 2004, Microsoft's Hotmail increased storage space to 250 MB and 2 GB respectively for its free and paid e-mail services for users in North America.
- Throughout June, the Israeli search site Walla upgraded their service to 1 GB of space.
- On July 29, 2004, Yahoo! Mail increased space to 1 GB for its users in China in hopes of getting a foothold in the country's booming internet market.
- On August 16, 2004, AlienCamel.com introduced unlimited storage. The first e-mail service to do so for its paid subscribers.
- On March 23, 2005, Yahoo! Mail announced that it will soon (in late April) begin giving all users of its free Web e-mail service 1 gigabyte of storage.
- On April 1, 2005, its first anniversary, Gmail increased its storage size to 2 GB, and its storage has increased constantly since then at a rate that works out to 1 GB per year, a rate that Google pledges it will keep up as long as its servers have room.
- On May 11, 2005, AOL announced AIM Mail, a free Web e-mail service with 2 gigabyte of storage.
- On June 6, 2005, AOL announced unlimited e-mail storage for its paying subscribers.
- On October 8, 2005, Runbox announced 10 GB e-mail storage for its subscribers with a 1 GB Files storage.
- In October, 2005, Mailnation, now Thinkpost, announced 1 TB (1000 GB) e-mail storage for it's subsctibers.
- 30gigs announced 30 GB e-mail storage for its subscribers.
- On November 1, 2005, Microsoft released a beta version of Windows Live Mail, the successor to Hotmail, featuring 2 GB of free storage for all accounts.
- On August 2, 2006, Lycos increased its storage size to 3 GB (beta) without size limit of attachments.
- On November 6, 2006, Amazemail announces its free Ajax webmail service with 10 GB of disk space.
- Comparison of webmail providers
- E-mail hosting service
- ^ Brownlow, Mark "Email and webmail statistics", Email Marketing Reports, December, 2006
- Open Directory category for Webmail Providers
- Yahoo! Directory of Free Webmail Providers
- Web Based Email Providers Reviewed
- Verify email address: Verify the syntax & format, the domain name, a valid user and actual mailbox. (RFC 2822 compliant online free tool).
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