Web Design & Development Guide
Web-based email or webmail is a term referring to an
e-mail service intended to be primarily accessed via an web browser, as
opposed to through an application such as Mozilla's Thunderbird, Apple's
Mail or Microsoft Outlook.
One of the earliest Webmail services was Hotmail. Now, the most popular
Webmail providers are arguably Gmail and Yahoo! Mail. Some other webmail
services include AIM Mail, Mail.com, Lycos Mail, and Windows Live Hotmail; see
also Wikipedia's Comparison of webmail providers.
a popular webmail service.
A major advantage of web-based email over application-based email is that a
user has the ability to access their inbox from any Internet-connected computer.
However, the need for
Internet access is also a setback, in that one cannot access their old
messages, or work on new ones, when they are not connected to the Internet.
In 1997, prior to its acquisition by Microsoft, Hotmail introduced its
service, which became one of the first popular web-based email offerings.
Following Hotmail's initial success, Yahoo! released their webmail service, which also grew to become widely popular.
Google's introduction of Gmail in 2004 sparked a period of rapid development
ads, and massive storage. Other webmail providers responded by offering
similar features, such as Yahoo!'s introduction of its new version of Yahoo!
There are also software packages that allow an organization such as company
to offer email through the web for their associates. Some solutions are open
source software like
SquirrelMail and others are closed source like the Outlook Web Access module for
Microsoft Exchange, Socketmail and Atmail.
Conversely, there are programs that can simulate a web browser to access web
mail as if it were stored in a POP3 or IMAP account. They
are susceptible, though, to changes in the user interface of the web service
since there is no standard interface.
Rendering and Compatibility
There are important differences in rendering capabilities for many popular
web mail services such as Gmail, Windows Live mail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail. Due
to the various treatment of HTML tags, such as
<style> and <head>, as well as
inconsistancies, email marketing companies rely on older
web development techniques to send
cross-platform mail. This usually means a heavy reliance on HTML tables and
"Email and webmail statistics", Email Marketing Reports, May, 2007
CNN article: Google is going to offer a free e-mail product that should be
far superior to Yahoo! and Hotmail.
Rich Internet Applications
Web application framework
Web application development