The Different Types of Free Email

Overview of the features offered by different types of free email service

POP Mail

SUMMARY: POP (or POP3) mail services store your incoming messages on a server until you are ready to collect them. You download them using an email software package (Eudora, Pegasus Mail or Outlook Express, for instance). Once you download the messages, they are deleted from the server and stored on your PC. POP mail is what most ISPs offer, so you probably already have at least one POP mail account.

PROS: You can compose and read messages offline, and connect just to send messages and download your new mail. You can also use powerful email software, with spell checking, filters etc. You can keep an almost unlimited number of messages (as long as you keep downloading them regularly) since they are stored on your hard disk. This also means that you can re-read old messages without connecting to the Internet.

CONS: Until recently, the big disadvantage of POP mail was that you could not access your email while "on the road" since you needed special email software, configured "just so". Now however, many companies offer simple web-based solutions for reading POP mail. With free POP mail, the only viable business model is advertising messages. If you sign up with a free POP mail service, you can generally expect to receive ads in your mailbox a minimum of a few times a month... Many free POP mail services have disabled support for sending messages (to prevent spam), so you may not be able to send and receive messages through the same company!

Click here for the list of free POP email services.

Web-based Email

SUMMARY: With web-based email, you use your internet browser to go to the email provider's site, then log in with a user name and password. The email provider stores all your messages for you. Most of the largest free email providers are in the web-based email business since this kind of service is easy to implement and brings repeat visitors to a site. Many services offer extra functions, such as online spell-checkers, personal address books, distribution lists etc.

PROS: You can easily log in and collect your email from any web browser; you don't need to configure a program to read your email - great if you're not technically minded!

CONS: Many web-based services take advantage of advanced functions such as Java in order to provide an attractive interface. You will therefore need to have a current web browser in order to keep your options open; Netscape Navigator 4.x or Internet Explorer 4.x will be sufficient to access your email. Most web-based services do not match (yet!) the functionality of good email software. You are limited to a relatively small amount of storage space (typically a few megabytes) so you won't be able to keep your old messages for very long before you run out of room! Web-based email services generally show you banner advertisements while you are collecting your mail; many also add a short "tag line" to each message you send, identifying the service you used. This makes it very easy for the recipient to see that you used a free email service! For example:-

This message was sent through Web-Based Mail.
Get your own free email at Web-Based Mail today!

Click here for the list of free web-based email services.

Mail Forwarding Services

SUMMARY: Mail forwarding services forward messages to an existing email address. This is great if your current email address is difficult to remember, but it means that you need to have an email address already before you can use a forwarding service.

PROS: The best thing about email forwarding services is they let you continue to use your existing email account given to you by your ISP. If you change ISPs at any time, just change the email address your email is forwarded to, and it will automatically be redirected to your new address. Forwarding services let you choose a memorable, fun, distinctive name.

CONS: With an email forwarding service, you are putting another layer between the sender and your email account. This means that you are twice as exposed to network or other problems; if either the forwarding service OR your email account is down, the email will not get through. This also means that your email may be delayed getting to you. Generally, mail forwarding services make money by adding a small advertisement to the top or bottom of each email message they forward.

Click here for the list of free email forwarding services.