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What is webmail - Web Based Email

Web based Email accounts are usually free email accounts that are operated from a website unlike Outlook Express, Netscape Communicator or Eudora, installed on your hard drive. They are World Wide Web interfaces that allows users to read and write E-mail using a Web browser. Webmail is commonly offered as a service by Internet companies, often in exchange for providing personal information for marketing purposes.

They usually offer some email services such as signature, vacation reply and filters, but do not include features such as catch-all and aliases and usually provide less disk space to store messages.

Since they are web based, they are slow and cumbersome using a browser and require an Internet connection to read and compose messages, but useful in the case where you need additional email accounts on a long or short term basis. Web based email accounts are used extensively by spammers which is a reason why you can rarely find the name you prefer.  A clear disadvantage of web based email accounts is that you can not read old email or prepare new email offline. You need to  be connected to the Internet to retrieve, read, and send your email messages.

General webmail service features:

  • Multiple Folders
  • Trash folder
  • Address book / Contact list
  • Filtering the incoming email to dispatch to related folder
  • Spam detection and blocking measures (reject/bounce email to sender with note)
  • Ability to send back the emails with suspecious attachments to the sender.
  • POP3 mail retrieval
  • Antivirus for mail attachements
  • Dictionary and thesaurus for composed messages
  • Online Spell checker (gmail has best)

Advantages of webmail services

  • Email can be read and composed anywhere a person has access to a web browser.
  • Messages do not have to be downloaded.
  • Many services allow anonymous sign-ups.

Disadvantages of webmail services

  • The user must stay online to read and write email.
  • Commercial webmail services often offer only limited email storage space and deliver advertisements.
  • Heavy use of webmail over a slow network connection can be tedious.

A bit of History

Historically, the first webmail service was Hotmail. Hotmail ( was Created by Sabir Bhatia in India. Hotmail became very popular, and was later bought by Microsoft and rebranded MSN Hotmail. There are now many other webmail services available.

When choosing a good, free web based email provider, you should find one that will allow you to send and retrieve your email using an email client such as Outlook Express or Netscape Navigator. This way your emails donít get stucked on server.

Here is a list of webmail directories and guides on Dmoz:

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