How Email Works

Free and Paid Email Services

Services such as Google and Yahoo! provide free email accounts for subscribers.
Image courtesy of Google

Whether it's for work or keeping in touch with family and friends, people rely on the Internet to send and receive email messages. According to a March 2007 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 91 percent of U.S. Internet users have gone online to send or read email. The same source reports that 56 percent of email users send or read email as part of a typical day [source: Email Marketing Reports].

An October 2007 study by the market research firm, The Radicati Group, reported that 183 billion emails were sent daily in 2006. With numbers like that, it's no surprise that there's a large variety of email service providers to choose from. Choices include providers like Gmail or Yahoo! who provide free email service or providers who charge a fee like America Online, Apple or NetZero.


Gmail and Yahoo! make money from advertisers who pay them to expose email account holders to their messages. It's also easy to find reviews of various free email services. Here are few descriptions of free email services:

  • Gmail — Gmail is Google's free email service. It offers online storage that's practically unlimited. It also provides sorting methods that allows users to quickly organize and sift their inbox efficiently for important messages. As a free service, Gmail exposes users to contextual advertisements, which are based on keywords found in the user's email messages. It's versatile in handling many different attachment types and scans for spam, worms and virus.
  • Yahoo! mail — Perhaps one of the most popular free services, Yahoo! offers unlimited online storage as well as text messaging and RSS news feeds. Using more than a dozen filters, Yahoo! files incoming emails and automatically sends junk emails to a spam folder and allows you to add emails to that folder. It features easy-to-use drag and drop organization tools.
  • MSN Windows Hotmail — Another well-used free service, Hotmail is supported by Microsoft technology and features 5 GB of online storage space. A versatile desktop design allows users to customize the color and layout of their mail manager. It also offers users the choice of working a classic, familiar format and switching to an updated look with added features when they choose. Microsoft security features coupled with familiar drag-and-drop organization tools add further comfort-of-use for many email users.

Email providers who charge a fee may offer additional services such as increased storage space. Sample providers include Juno, EarthLink and

For example, it's easier to get personalized email addresses — perhaps incorporating your actual name, for instance - using a paid service. Paid email services often allow users to keep their same email address even if they change their ISP and screen users from advertisers. They often are easier to reach on support issues and special features such as custom spam filters, additional email accounts and mobile access.

Most internet service providers can also serve as an email provider for no additional charge. Other paid email services specialize in small business accounts and can assist businesses in purchasing and maintaining a domain name.

Next we'll offer some etiquette tips for when you write and send email messages.