Ever since the dawn of time mankind has an insatiable urge to communicate with one another. It seems that ultimate loneliness is no communication at all. From the early days of smoke signals to bongo drums to messenger boys mankind has found better and better ways to stay in communication.
Communicating over vast distances became a problem. This was wrought with danger and took loads of time. Then came things like wired communication, radio and telephone. Mankind was once again happy. Then mankind began to get uneasy again. We wanted a cheaper, faster, personal, immediate form of communication. Enter the world of e-mail.
To begin, only the select few had access to this precious technology. Then something amazing happened. Free email was born and everyone on the planet with internet access could get free email and stay in touch. Mankind was happy. But then, as more and more free mail services came onboard we were stuck with a choice. Which free online mail service should I go for?
Hotmail a.k.a Windows Livemail.
Hotmail, probably the most well known of the big three free online mail services. The Hotmail web-based email service was founded by Jack Smith and Sabeer Bhatia and launched in July of 1996. Hotmail was one of the first free webmail services. It was subsequently acquired by Microsoft in 1997.
Windows Live Hotmail offers an unlimited amount of storage. But they have a strict abuse policy in place. Most people believe that you are unofficially limited to 5GB mail box size. Although there are people from around the world that have 25GB, 19GB and 21GB mail box sizes.
Windows Live Hotmail also allows for 10mb attachment limit for each mail. Windows Live Hotmail offers no direct pop features although you can use Microsoft products like Outlook Express and Outlook to pop your hotmail box. You would need Microsoft connector for Outlook. Hot mail is not the fastest service available. But when you sign up with a Live account you also get access to all the Live services like SkyDrive etc. Windows Live Hotmail lies second behind Yahoo! mail in terms of market share with roughly 254 million users world wide.
At the moment, Yahoo! mail is the king of the hill when it comes to online mail market share. With around about 256 million users worldwide it seems that Yahoo! mail is just on top. But it must be said that it seems as though Yahoo! mail is losing users on a monthly basis.
Yahoo Mail is very good, allowing users to access other email accounts (POP-in), but only offering POP-out access for an additional fee. They have unlimited storage, but just like the other service providers, also have a strict abuse policy. Although there are cases of them actually limiting your mail box. So their unlimited storage is actual.
Yahoo! mail offers a 20MB attachment limit. With news and IM integration. Yahoo Mail overall runs very fast and offers an intuitive, Outlook-like interface. They also have awesome Instant Messenger(although less people seem to be using Yahoo Messenger for some reason) and RSS integration right into the mail platform. One of my bug bears of Yahoo! mail is the ads for the unpaid free service.
Otherwise known as Google mail. It might surprise you to know that Gmail actually come in at a strong third position. With roughly 150 million users world wide. They are slowly growing and might even over take Hotmail who have about 156 million users.
Gmail offers unlimited storage but this has been linked to the paid service. Although they advertise unlimited storage, when I log into my Gmail account, I am greeted with the familiar 7.5 GB limit. Although this is a moving target, because it seems the closer you get to your limit, the more you seem to get. So who knows?
Gmail offers a 25mb attachment size. The largest limit of the top three. Of the three, Gmail is probably the fastest with the ability to use Pop with any desktop mail client.
Gmail also has integrated Gtalk (their Instant Messenger platform) directly into the GMail interface, and continues to add other functionality as well(such as integration with Docs & Spreadsheets). Most recently, they launched the new social networking feature Buzz as a part of the Gmail interface.
In June 2008, Gmail introduced Gmail Labs. It’s a tab on top of settings, that lists features that are rough and have gone through almost no filtering. The Gmail Labs feature that allows you to turn on and off some experimental features. When a feature is deemed “useful enough” to a wide range of users, it then graduates from the “Labs” section and becomes a standard feature.
For me I like Gmail better. Perhaps because I use it the most. I have it integrated into my desktop mail client, so it just performs in the background. I hardly have to use the webmail interface. It is speedy, and simple. I don’t want to be bombarded with other stuff while reading mail online. I do have both Yahoo! mail and Windows Live Hotmail, but use these more to catch spam that has somehow bypassed the spam filters. The amount of unique users of all the above three differ depending on which stats you read. But most put Yahoo on top with Gmail in third place.
So which online mail service do you use and why? Which do you think is better?