Lesson 4: How to Choose an Email Service

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How to choose an email service

woman choosing an email service

An email address is a big part of your online identity.

You need an email address to do just about anything on the Web, from sending messages to banking online to creating a Facebook account. In the early days of the Internet, the easiest way to get a personal email address was through your Internet service provider (ISP). For example, if your Internet was provided by AOL, your email address might have looked something like this:

willg00d52@aol.com

Today, there are many different options when it comes to choosing an email service.

We recommend getting an address through a free webmail provider rather than your ISP.

Webmail refers to any email service you can access through your web browser (think Internet Explorer or Google Chrome). Some of the most well-known webmail providers include Gmail, Outlook.com (formerly known as Hotmail), and Yahoo! Mail.

All of these services are free to use. And because you can access them through your web browser, you can check your email just about anywhere—at home, at work, or on the go!

free webmail providers

Why shouldn't I use an ISP email address?

Providing email service isn't a big priority for many ISPs; as a result, the technology they use isn't always up to date, which introduces some potential problems. For example:

  • If you move or change your ISP, you'll probably need to get a new email address. For some people, this might just be a minor inconvenience; for those with hundreds of contacts and old messages, it could be a huge headache.
  • You may have a limited amount of storage space for your emails. You may also have a relatively small file-size limit for email attachments.
  • The interface may be difficult to use or may not work with your web browser; some providers may actually require you to use a desktop application to view your email, which makes it more difficult to access messages on the go.

One other thing to keep in mind: ISP email addresses have become much less common over the past several years. While there's nothing wrong with using an email address from your ISP, it may lead some to assume you're a bit old-fashioned.

comparing ISP email with webmail service

Advantages of free webmail

Here are some of the advantages of free webmail over ISP email:

  • You'll always have the same email address, even if you need to change your ISP.
  • All of these services offer a large amount of free storage space (15GB or more). There will also be fewer limitations on file size for attachments.
  • All of these services use a clean, simple interface, which makes it easy to send new messages and find old ones.
  • An account with the services above includes a lot of other benefits, like an online calendar, photo storage, and online maps.
advtanges of free webmail

Disadvantages of free webmail

These webmail services have a lot of good features, but that doesn't mean they're perfect. To help offset the cost of their free service, all of the providers mentioned above will display advertising in your email inbox.

For some services, like Gmail, this means a computer will look for keywords in your email messages to show you relevant ads. This doesn't mean anyone is actually reading your private messages, but it does make some users uncomfortable.

annoying webmail advertisements

Alternatives to Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo!

In our opinion, the convenience of free webmail outweighs its disadvantages. Still, if you'd prefer to use a webmail service that doesn't show advertisements, we recommend one of the services below. However, note that these services are not free to use.

OK, so how do I get a new email address?

If you're ready to get started with a new email provider, simply visit its website and look for an option to sign up or create an account. If you'd like to see step-by-step instructions, you can review this lesson from our Gmail tutorial. The process will be relatively similar for other webmail services.

Want to learn more?

Ready to learn more about how email works and how to use webmail services like Gmail? Check out our Email 101 and Gmail tutorials!

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