Short for electronic mail, e-mail consists of messages sent from one user to another via a network.
E-mail allows users to send messages, pictures, and even video files to friends, family, and co-workers anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds. It has become commonplace in most office settings, as it allows near-instance communication between co-workers and business partners, as well as providing a historic record of all communications regarding a specific project. E-mail can be sent to a single person, to a small group, or even to millions of addresses simultaneously.
Learn more: How E-mail Works
Watch: The Animated Internet: How E-mail Works
Frequently Asked Questions
What tools do I need to use e-mail?
The first thing you will need is your own e-mail address. Many Internet Service Providers give you an e-mail address when you subscribe to their service, many companies provide their employees with a work e-mail address, or you can set up your own personal e-mail using an online provider such as Gmail or Outlook.com. Once you have your own e-mail address, you can either use your e-mail provider’s webmail system to create and view e-mails online, or you can use an e-mail client on your computer or mobile device. Most devices come with a built-in e-mail app, but you can also download a program from your app store or the Internet. Many e-mail programs are available for free, though some may charge extra for using advanced features, such as managing more than one e-mail account.
Can I get a personalized e-mail address?
When you use an e-mail address provided by your ISP, employer, or even an online service, the address will usually reference the company that is providing the e-mail. For instance, if you sign up for e-mail through Yahoo, your address will likely be [email protected], where YOURNAME may be your actual name, or some variation on your name (if your name is already in use by someone else). If you prefer to have a personalized address ([email protected]), you will need to first purchase that domain name associated with your name. Then you will need to find an e-mail hosting company (or a traditional web host), where you can host your own e-mail service. This can be particularly useful for artists, self-employed individuals, or small business owner’s looking to brand their company’s e-mail. For more information about setting up your own domain, see our Publish Online section.
What type of information can I send over e-mail?
You can send nearly any type of information using e-mail. Most e-mails simply contain text; however, they may also contain HTML to vary the style of the font, attach hyperlinks, or embed images. You can also attach any type of file, including images, videos, applications, and more. The only restriction placed on you is the size of the file. Most e-mail servers place limits on how large an e-mail can be sent or received. For large files, you may need to utilize an online storage company, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, and use your e-mail to send a link to the online file.