TANSTAAFL – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.
– Robert Heinlein, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”.
Web based email provides access to your email from any web browser, anywhere.
Starting in the mid-1990’s, many different companies began marrying two Internet technologies by providing email over the web. Because email transmission is typically very low bandwidth, many of these services were free or inexpensive, and some still are. They usually provide access to email by logging onto a web based program with an address and password, and then displaying a screen in HTML that looks like an email program with mailboxes and folders, reply and forward buttons, etc. The key advantage of these services is that you don’t need to carry anything with you as you move around — you can check your email from any web browser, anywhere, even while traveling around the world.
The disadvantage of web based email services is that they don’t always have as many features as full desktop email applications, or you may have to pay for extra features, such as increases to limits on the size of attachments you can send and store. Web based systems are also not as fast as an email application running directly on your computer, since there is inherently much less delay on the bus of a local computer than when communicating with a web site server across the Internet.
All you need to use these web email services from any browser are your email address on the site and password. If you use the same computer all of the time and have configured your browser to accept cookies, then you might have the option to save your settings so you can access your email directly without having to log in each time.
Because the web has a built in encryption protocol, it is fairly easy to add encryption to web based email systems so that messages coming and going between you and the server are completely safeguarded from disclosure. However, note this confidentiality is only between you and the server — messages carried between that server and your correspondents are sent over normal SMTP, unencrypted and in the clear (only message encryption provides end-to-end confidentiality).
Some web based sites also provide free POP3 access, so you can use a normal email program like Outlook or Eudora to access your email as well as the web browser. Conversely, there are sites that let you check your usual POP3 email on the web when you are away from your usual computer, which is particularly useful while traveling.
Resources. The following pages index various web based email options: