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Electronic mail or email is a means of sending messages, text, and computer files between computers via the Internet.

Email and webmail

There are two main types of email, client-based email and webmail. Client-based email is often used by business users and involves the email beingdownloadeddownloadthe transfer of a file or files from one computer connected to the Internet to anotherfrom aserverservera computer that provides services to users, eg access to shared files, web hosting, file storageto anapplication [applicationapplications serve a specific purpose, eg Microsoft Word is used for word processing ](such as Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird) on the user’s computer. Webmail is accessed through aweb browserweb browseran application used to browse the Internet or view web pagesand can be accessed from any computer with anInternet connectionInternet connectiona computer's or another internet-enabled device's connection to the Internet.

Client-based email

Microsoft Outlook, inbox is selected, email in inbox from Michael Smith starting 'Finally... you've got an email address!' (http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/ict/images/outlook.jpg)

Client-based email requires software, eg Outlook

To set up this type of email you need:

  • a computer
  • an Internet connection
  • an account with an ISP (Internet Service Provider)
  • an emailapplication[applicationapplications serve a specific purpose, eg Microsoft Word is used for word processing ], eg Outlook, Thunderbird or Entourage

Your Internet Service Provider will give you an email account, a password and amailboxmailboxwhere all email sent to and from the associated email address is storedsuch as [email protected].

With adial-up [dial-upa method of connecting to the Internet that involves 'dialling up' as if making a phone call ]connection you have to pay the cost of your Internet phone calls (local rate) and in most cases a subscription to your provider (though some are free). Dial-up users can download their emails and read them offline to keep costs down.

Abroadband [broadbandhigh speed Internet access ]connection is 'always on' with a flat-rate subscription. Very few people pay by the minute nowadays and the majority of people pay a monthly fee for broadband access.

Anti-virus [anti-virusanti-virus software scans all forms of storage devices for viruses and, if found, attempts to remove them ]scanning is becoming standard on email accounts and many email providers now offer a spam (electronic junk mail)filteringspam filteringunsolicited (junk) email is caught by a spam filterservice.


Webmail, as its name suggests, is web-based email. To use webmail you do not need any email software - just a computer connected to the Internet and a browser. Webmail accounts are usually free.

Google mail inbox (http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/ict/images/googlemail.jpg)

Email accessed from within a web browser, ie webmail

Users simply sign up to a webmail service such as Googlemail, Hotmail or Yahoo. They are then given a unique user name, password and a personalmailboxmailboxwhere all email sent to and from the associated email address is stored. The mailbox is…


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