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The Golden Age Of Free Email Is Coming To An End

It wasn't that long ago that free email accounts were so ... for granted that everyone seemed to have several of them. ... ... owning dozens of Yahoo!, ... ... Hot

It wasn't that long ago that free email accounts were so totally
taken for granted that everyone seemed to have several of them. I
remember personally owning dozens of Yahoo!, AltaVista, Mail.com
and Hotmail accounts (among any others), each with their own
special purpose.

Even the internet marketing books recommended having several free
email accounts for promotional activities. You see, many "free"
advertising-related activities require an email address so that
spam can be sent. The exchange is you get a little free
advertising and you agree to receive some useless, silly
promotional messages. You cannot just put in a fake email address
as this would be detected, so typically you would create a free
email account just for the purpose. Who cares how many messages
get set to an account which will never be read?

This, of course, violated the purpose of free email accounts,
which is to display banner and other advertisements as people
read their email messages (many of these free accounts also send
spam messages of their own to their subscribers as well). Tons of
mail dumped into accounts which are never read generate no money
for the email services.

Nonetheless, in the heyday of the free accounts this was a minor
inconvenience. Ah, those were the days, when businesses would pay
major dollars for banners!

In fact, in an even greater perversion of this phenomenon, a few
email services popped up which actually paid for people to read
email messages. I don't mean those "services" which paid to send
you email messages from advertisers; no, I mean you got paid a
small amount for every single message, regardless of who it was
from, that you read in the web-based email client. The concept
was that advertisers would pay for you to look at the banner ads
that displayed at the same time as the messages.

It was even touted among the "experts" that the free email
services such as Hotmail was an incredible thing called viral
marketing. The concept here was that every message you send using
the service has a link to join the service. This gives every
single person who reads a message a chance (and often many
chances) to join themselves. Millions (and perhaps tens of
millions) took advantage of these offers.

Of course all of this failed to take into account a very basic
fact: it really doesn't matter how many people use the service if
money is not being made. In fact this proved very true when the
internet bubble burst; more users suddenly meant more money being
lost.

The long overdue death of the banner ad as a viable means of
promotion foreshadowed the failure of many internet businesses.
Those with exceptionally poor business models, such as
AllAdvantage, fell fast. These were soon followed by the merely
idiotic (such as TheVines), the grandiose (such as Kozmos and
WebVan) and the merely poorly financed (most of the internet
companies).

The inevitable is finally catching up with the world of free email
services. These days the announcements seem to be coming almost
daily from all of the major services: Yahoo, Hotmail, Mail.com
and Altavista. They are either attempting to force their users
into paid services or are closing down entirely.

Many of these services are finding that they can survive by
providing free basic accounts with extra charges for "special"
features. The most common "extra feature" is POP3 access (meaning
reading email from your email client). The rationale is the free
service cannot make money from POP3 accounts as no advertisements
are shown. This is, of course, a very weak argument because the
services do place ads in the email messages.

Another common "extra cost feature" is large attachments. The
free email services seem to believe that only a small percentage
of people use attachments of over, say, a few hundred kilobytes to
a few megabytes. They reason that if this is desired the users can
pay extra.

The problem is, well, that most of these free email services are
worth exactly what they cost: nothing. Free email services are
fat, dumb and lazy. If you don't believe me, just try getting
customer support! Their paid versions will almost certainly not be
any better, and it appears to me to be exceptionally overpriced
as well.

So what are the alternatives?

Mail.Com

One of the few free email services that is worth anything is
Mail.Com. I have used this service many times and have had good
luck. Their free version is fast, easy to use and simple, although
they do charge extra for POP3 access. I like their web based mail
system, although their free service does require advertisements.
You can eliminate these advertisements for less than $10 per year
if you so desire.

Everyone.Net

Personally, I love the service provided by Everyone.net. For
about $40 a year, you get your own domain name and ten
full-featured POP3 email accounts. You can use your own email
program (Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora or whatever you prefer)
or you can read your messages on the web using a simple interface.
Everyone.Net also has a very simple filtering capability, which
I've found is great for getting rid of the spam. This service is
perfect for someone who needs a lot of email accounts without any
effort, perhaps for a family or group of friends.

Purchase a Domain Name and Forward Your Email

James S. Huggins wrote an article which explains in detail how to
purchase a domain and forward email from that domain to your
ISP's account. The concept is as follows:

- You purchase a domain for about $9.00 a year from a registrar
which allows for email forwarding. NameCheap is one of these.
Let's say you registered "johnsmith.com"

- Park the web site on their server. This presents a single page
which says the site is under construction.

- Use the NameCheap system to forward all email to
"yourname@johnsmith.com" to your own personal ISP email
account.

What is the advantage of this? Since everyone will be sending
email to yourname@johnsmith.com, you can change ISP's all you
want. You don't have to worry about changing your email address -
you only have to change the one forwarding address.

Purchase web Hosting

Contrary to popular belief, paid web hosting is not very
expensive. In fact, all but the very worst paid hosting services
provide far superior service and features than the best free host.

One of the features that is provided with many paid hosting
services is a number of POP3 accounts. You can use these for
your own email account as well.

Other Alternatives

Believe me, I do understand that companies on the internet need
to make a profit. I also know that many companies which offered
free services are struggling with what to do about the failure of
the banner ad and internet advertising in general.

I firmly believe that the "advertising supported" concept on the
internet is basically flawed, unethical and simply does not work.
People should pay for whatever services they use at a reasonable
rate. The concept of having someone else pay for the service in
order to display advertising tends to distance the user (the web
site or email user) from the vendor (the free mail provider)
because the customer is actually the advertiser and not the user.
This results in poor service and oftentimes a complete lack of
responsibility for the actual users of the services.

However, some of the larger, more traditional free email
providers have habitually offered horrible (at best) customer
service and have proven time and again that they could not care
less about their users. These companies have come up with business
models that simply did not work and built tremendous organizations
on top of those models.

By purchasing the new pay services from these companies, you will
get the same horrible customer service and lack of care (because
these are the same organizations), only now you will be paying to
be abused.

The final and perhaps most important argument against giving
money to these previously free services is they tend towards the
extraordinarily expensive side when compared with the alternatives.
The only advantage to staying with one of these free services (as
far as I can see) is you won't have to change. And sometimes, my
friends, change is a good thing.

Additional Reading

Own Your Own Email Address
http://www.jamesshuggins.com/h/web1/own_your_own_email_address.htm

An excellent article by James S. Huggins about how to purchase a
domain name and create forwarding addresses.

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Article Tags: Free Email Services, Free Email, Email Accounts, These Free, Email Services, Domain Name

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