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Webmail (or Web-based e-mail) is an e-mail service intended to be primarily accessed via a web browser, as opposed to through an e-mail client, such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla's Thunderbird, or Apple Inc.'s Mail. Very popular webmail providers include Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail and AOL.[1]

A major advantage of web-based e-mail over application-based e-mail is that a user has the ability to access their inbox from any Internet-connected computer around the world. However, the need for Internet access is also a drawback, in that one cannot access old messages when 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 e-mail offerings. Following Hotmail's success, Google's introduction of Gmail in 2004 sparked a period of rapid development in webmail, due to Gmail's new features such as JavaScript menus, text-based ads, and bigger storage.



[edit] History

The first webmail software was called simply WebMail and was developed in perl by Luca Manunza[2][3] when he was working at CRS4, in Sardinia. The first working demo[4] was released on March 10, 1995; thereafter the source[5] was released (with registration required) on March 30, 1995.

[edit] Software packages

There are also software packages that allow organizations to offer e-mail through the web for their associates. Some solutions are open source software like SquirrelMail, BlueMamba, RoundCube and IlohaMail, while others are closed source like the Outlook Web Access module for Microsoft Exchange. Conversely, there are programs that can simulate a web browser to access webmail 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.

Some providers offer web access to other's e-mail servers. This allows web access to mailboxes where the mail server does not offer a web interface, or where an alternative interface is desired.

[edit] Rendering and compatibility

There are important differences in rendering capabilities for many popular webmail services such as Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and Windows Live Hotmail. Due to the various treatment of HTML tags, such as <style> and <head>, as well as CSS rendering inconsistencies, e-mail marketing companies rely on older web development techniques to send cross-platform mail. This usually means a heavy reliance on tables and inline stylesheets.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Brownlow, Mark "Email and webmail statistics", Email Marketing Reports, January, 2009
  2. ^ Pinna alberto "Soru: un incontro con Rubbia, così nacque il web in Sardegna" Corriere della Sera, December 28, 1999 (in italian)
  3. ^ Ferrucci Luca "The ICT in Sardinia: Start up and evolution"
  4. ^ "Demo release"
  5. ^ "Source code release"
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