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Popular Email Clients Reviewed
By: Barzan 'Tony' Antal
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    Table of Contents:
  • Popular Email Clients Reviewed
  • Webmail
  • Mozilla Thunderbird
  • Opera Mail (M2)
  • Outlook 2007
  • Final Words

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    Popular Email Clients Reviewed - Webmail

    (Page 2 of 6 )

    Web-based email, or simply webmail, refers to an email service that is fully web-based. The user can access it via a web browser, and therefore eliminate the need for a dedicated stand-alone desktop application, such as an email client. Here we are going to analyze the major advantages and drawbacks of webmail.

    First of all, the most outstanding benefit of webmail providers is that they allow users to access their email box from anywhere in the world as long as they have access to a computer or mobile terminal with Internet access. This is especially useful if you are where application-based email wouldn't be possible.

    However, this aforementioned advantage also brings a significant drawback: the unavailability of the service without Internet access, meaning that the user cannot compose new mail or read older mail while offline. This is a setback.

    Another advantage that we can mention is hassle-free access, because taking care of a desktop email client that requires updates, security patches, and bug fixes isn't appealing at all. Next, we have the security of our messages, because our mail won't get stored locally. We don't have to make backup copies in lieu of losing our precious mail. Some webmail services also offer antivirus and anti-spam functions.

    Drawbacks of webmail services include the limited options for formatting email and their all-around security vulnerability. In the latter, we include "phishing" attacks, which are basically spam mail that try to "trick" the user into giving out sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details. More often than not they masquerade as common trustworthy services such as eBay or Paypal.

    A few years ago the available storage for spam was also an issue, but since the launch of Gmail the traditional email box sizes dramatically increased from 5-50MBs up to 1-5GBs. And some even went further, offering unlimited storage. Anyhow, in my opinion, currently it's rather inconsequential whether the provider offers 5GB+ or simply claims unlimited space. At this time, we could easily say that these are the same thing.

    (At the time of writing I have over 6.1GB of mail storage space but it's increasing.)

    Furthermore, Gmail offers specific features that are really useful. For example, the service groups messages received and/or sent from/to the same people into "conversation blocks." This is only done visually but it does the trick; it's very helpful when following sequential mails. Additionally, the "search within mails" function is great to have.

    Last but definitely not the least, thanks to the sudden growth of AJAX-powered techniques and the capabilities of this successful programming language (web development), online services have gradually become redefined by mimicking the look-and-feel of desktop clients. Lately, many of the providers have transitioned to AJAX.

    Right now, the following three providers are occupying the top ranks for webmail services: Yahoo!, Hotmail (now called Windows Live Hotmail), and Gmail. The position of Google Mail is uncertain due to the lack of official statistics. But compared to the first two competitors they fall short on the number of user accounts as well. Nonetheless, Gmail was launched just "recently" (2004) compared to Hotmail and Yahoo! (1997).

    All in all, webmail services are reaching a stage of maturity where I'd be tempted to claim that they are powerful enough to replace desktop clients, but that's just my opinion. There's a lot of headroom for improvement as well as other functions and fixes that must be incorporated, but we could be impressed. As far as security goes, please, do your best not to be fooled-never give out sensitive data! Be careful.

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