Networking / Beginners

Alternatives to SMTP, POP3, and IMAP4

While SMTP and POP3 or IMAP4 are by far the most common and most traditional tools for doing e-mail, two other options have wide popularity: Web-based e-mail and proprietary solutions. Web-based mail, as the name implies, requires a Web interface. From a Web browser, you simply surf to the Web-mail server, log in, and access your e-mail. The cool part is that you can do it from anywhere in the world where you find a Web browser and an Internet hookup! You get the benefit of e-mail without even needing to own a computer. Some of the more popular Web-based services are Google's Gmail, Microsoft's MSN Hotmail, and Yahoo! Mail.

The key benefits of Web-based e-mail services are as follows:

  • You can access your e-mail from anywhere.
  • They're free.
  • They're handy for throw-away accounts (like when you're required to give an e-mail address to download something, but you know you're going to get spammed if you do).

Many traditional SMTP/POP/IMAP accounts also provide Web interfaces, but you should not confuse them with Web mail services. Web-based e-mail services are only available through the Web (although some will also give you SMTP/POP access).

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