The State Of Email Today
Now, when I initially saw The Dean's post about how much trouble he was was having with his Fuse email my first reaction was, "What in God's name is that fool still doing with a Fuse account?"
You see, I too once had an email address on a local ISP. So many people knew me under that email address that paid $10/month for it for YEARS after I had already moved over to broadband service.
I finally gave it up not so much because of the expense, but rather because of - you guessed it - the SPAM - the unrelenting, overwhelming, utterly unmanageable SPAM.
Now, right about that same period of time a couple of the "big players" started to get pretty good at filtering spam. AOL, which was a pay national ISP at the time, used to advertise heavily about their spam blockers. Yahoo, which was building a system based upon giving away staggering amounts of stuff for free (email, games, message boards, chat rooms, etc.) in order to attract eyeballs to mass advertisers in a business model not inherently different from network television was starting to get pretty good at spam blocking.
Why? Well, I'm guessing if people log into their email accounts and see nothing but hundreds and hundreds of spam emails they're going to get disinterested in using email and maybe start going to other sites and then advertisers will pay less for the smaller audience.
Now an ISP's business model is completely different. You pay maybe $45/mo. and if they don't have effective spam filters it doesn't matter because you're likely not going to go through the trouble of changing your ISP just to get less spam.
Now, alot of people keep their ISP-provided email address because they have had it for a long time or because they need it for certain services that won't take "free" email addresses for registration, but currently there seem to be three major email vendors who "get it" and a fourth who is trying awfully hard.
The first is Yahoo! Mail, currently offering a "beta" that looks an acts quite a bit like Microsoft Outlook.
Now Yahoo! Mail is free, and, as of quite recently, offers "unlimited storage" for "normal email account users".
Yahoo! also seems to be the "right brain" of advertiser supported online services. In return for really decent email service with pretty decent spam and virus protection, Yahoo! bombards you with various mostly very colorful and mostly very animated banner ads, of late, mostly advertising other parts of their own site like Yahoo! Travel, Yahoo! Personals, Yahoo! Video, with the occasional smattering of online universities and the occasional stray credit card.
Now the "left brain" of free online email of course is Google's GMail. GMail was a relative latecomer to the game and created all sorts of buzz by initially making it so that you had to be invited by another GMail user in order to get a GMail account. Also at one time they offered GMail accounts to users of the Blogger system, and that, as much as my Indian-Malaysian writer friend, led me to starting a blog.
Now, in return for currently about 2.8 gigabytes of storage, GMail bombards you with "targeted" text email ads, usually from rather small advertisers. For instance, an email volley with my Malaysian friends about Durian produces a test ad for an on-line grocery.
GMail is probably the overall leader of the pack in terms of "overall email experience". They group emails quite nicely in conjunction with, for instance, their Google Alerts service, have a nice mobile client, and also have an embedded chat application so you can have real-time discourse with any of the GMail users you email regularly.
Now, unlike Yahoo!, GMail does have POP access, but, for whatever reason, doesn't have IMAP access, which is something of a pain.
Now, becoming a contender, believe it or not, for the NEATEST free online email service is AOL.
That's right - AOL.
Now the web interface is not all that exciting - it's somewhat similar to Yahoo! - very "right brain" - ads in one box for mortgage lenders and cell phones, and headlines about celebrities in another box.
But, the beautiful part is that you don't HAVE to use the web interface. You can connect to your AOL mailbox with Outlook or anything else that will support the protocol with IMAP - that's a protocol where you pretty much just download your message headers and then only download the messages you actually want to read. They call it AOL Open Mail Access.
Of course the other thing that AOL really beat everyone too is "vanity domain". That's right, if it's available you can get an email something like "firstname.lastname@example.org" or something of the sort. They call it AOL My eAddress.
Honorable mention goes to, believe it or not, Windows Live Hotmail - 2 GB of storage, "right brained" - adds for Vonage, banks, and weight loss programs, but what REALLY catches your attention about this thing is a downloadable client called Windows Live Mail Beta that works quite a bit like Outlook Express.
Now, with ALL these different options (and it look like GMail at least does hide your IP), WHY are you still fooling with Fuse there, Dean?