Webmail is e-mail service accessed as a web application, in a web browser, over an internet connection.
It's helpful think of e-mail services as consisting of two parts:
- Client: The application that you use to access your e-mail.
- Provider: The mail servers that receive e-mails addressed to your address and send e-mail from your address to other e-mail addresses.
E-mail clients can be either web applications or desktop applications. If you access your e-mail using an application on your computer, such as Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail, you are using a desktop e-mail client. A web application used to access an e-mail account in a web browser is called a webmail client.
In the majority of cases webmail is provided as a packaged deal: the webmail provider and the webmail client are one and the same. However, it is possible to set up a desktop e-mail client to check e-mail powered by webmail provider. Depending on the webmail provider you use, it may also be possible to use your webmail client to check e-mail from other e-mail services.
Desktop and web-based e-mail clients each offer unique advantages. Desktop e-mail clients can be used even when there is no Internet connection to read e-mails that were downloaded previously and to draft e-mails which will be sent the next time an Internet connection is available. Webmail clients offer the considerable advantage of being accessible from any Internet-connected computer or device.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does a webmail account cost?
There are several very good webmail providers who offer free e-mail service. Some of the best webmail providers are Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Zoho. There are also quite a few webmail providers, including those we already mentioned, who offer paid accounts with premium services such as increased or unlimited e-mail inbox size, custom e-mail address domains, security enhancements, live support, and more.
Can I use a desktop e-mail client to check a webmail account?
Yes, just about any webmail account can be configured to work with an e-mail client. This is particularly useful if you want to access your e-mail from multiple computers or devices, and want to use an e-mail client on just one of the computers or devices. The steps necessary to set this up will vary depending on the e-mail client you want to use and your webmail provider. Some time spent reviewing the support documentation provided by either the email client developer or webmail provider should produce instructions that will have you set up in short order.
Can I use webmail for my business e-mail?
It can be tempting to use a free webmail provider for your business e-mail needs, but the general consensus is that e-mail addresses ending in @well-known-webmail-provider.com are not as professional as addresses ending in @your-business-website.com, and can leave a negative image of your business. The good news is that many webmail providers, such as those listed above, offer to host your e-mail using a custom domain for a reasonable price.