Free E-Mail Services
By Melvin Ah Ching
Free email is one of the most popular features on the internet. Free email has enabled people to set up alternate email addresses, establish an internet presence without subscribing to a provider and made it easy for some to check their email while traveling.
These services break down into 2 types. Web based and subscription based. Of the two, the most common is web based email.
A web based email account can be set up from any computer on the internet and made into your own. Web based email services are provided by most of the major web portals and search engines like Yahoo and Excite. You can a free email address by registering with any of these services.
All of the services collect information from you before you can get an account. Most only require your name, address and a phone number. Several ask for other types of demographic information such as the computer type you use, your income, persons in your family, marital status, reading preferences and your TV and movie viewing habits.
Why do these free email services ask for such information?
Two simple words: Targeted marketing.
The more information you give to them about yourself, the better that email service can target your mailbox with banner ads and promotional email. Most services give you the option declining promotional email. Banner ads are usually a given. The price for a "free" email account is to endure some form of advertising. Most of this is done through banner ads.
At the low price of free, most people will tolerate them.
Web based email services are handy if you want to set up an email account that can be accessed from just about any computer connected to the internet. This is most convenient for those on shared ISP accounts at home or at work. You access the internet through your provider, but instead of sending and receiving email through that shared account's mailbox, you have a private box at a web based site.
Another good reason for having a web based account is for the traveling person. As long as you can find access to the internet, your email account is just a mouse click away from wherever you're hooked up into the net. Convenient huh?
This way you can tell your friends and relatives about your travels while you are actually on the road. It's faster than sending a postcard.
Web based email is also a good place to direct your public mail. This is a convenient feature for those of you running a website. While you may want to keep your primary email address private, having an alternate email address so that the public can contact you is another good reason for having web based mail. Your web based, public email box can also serve as a buffer from those unwanted "spam" mails that usually get downloaded to your computer through your primary ISP account. Web based mail stays on that provider's website until you ask for it to be downloaded or have it deleted.
SOME CAVEATS ABOUT FREE EMAIL ACCOUNTS
A SECOND ALTERNATIVE
The second type of free email service, though not as widely used as web based mail are subscription services.
One of the most popular email subscription services is Juno. Juno offers direct dial email service using special client software that allows you to log into their network. The service is free, but you have to download the special software before you begin to use it. Like web based mail, Juno is also supported by banner advertising.
The downside of Juno is that they support only Windows based computers. There is no Macintosh client for Juno. While you do get dial up email access to Juno, the service doesn't provide for total internet access, unless you sign up for their recently launched pay service.
Another new service is AltaVista. They recently rolled out a full blown, free internet dial-up service which gives you email, net browsing and other features. Special software is also needed to access this service and is available only to Windows users. A Mac version is in the works.
Finally, if you are lucky enough, you can find an old fashioned bulletin board system. These used to proliferate through the 1980s and up to the early 1990s. A bulletin board system or BBS for short usually provides free email service between users on that board, and sometimes to networked users on the same BBS network. A few BBS systems now provide internet email service, some for free using a standard terminal program that runs on your Windows, Mac or Linux based computer. People who run BBS systems are called "Sysops". In many cases they will give you free access to their systems if you follow their rules and perhaps participate in the conference areas, upload a file or two or make a small monetary donation to keep the system going. These are somewhat hard to find since the full blown internet has diminished the importance of BBS systems in recent years.
Whichever route you go, the choices for free email services are plentiful. Take a look around and see what appeals to you.
Suggested free email services:
Juno http://www.juno.com - uses dedicated client software.
AltaVista http://www.altavista.com - look for link to free internet access.
Operator Headgap BBS http://www.headgap.com
Need more options? Go to your favorite web search engine and look up free email as a search topic. It is guaranteed that many more sites and possibly a few more BBS services may show up.
Copyright 1998-99 by Melvin Ah Ching Productions.