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You've got free mail

August 28, 1997
Web posted at: 8:30 p.m. EDT (0030 GMT)

From CNN Interactive writer David Mandeville

Get to your e-mail account from any place at any time for free with no special software needed. Sound appealing?

If it does, you could become one of a growing number of people who are taking advantage of Internet mail services that use a Web page to give users access to their mail.

What advantages does it offer?

With a Web-based e-mail account, you get incredible flexibility. You can access your mail from work, from home, from the local cybercafe, or from your hotel room halfway around the world. You don't need to call an Internet service provider (ISP), you don't have to have e-mail software. All you have to have is a connection to the Internet and a browser.

If you share an ISP account with a roommate or other family members, you probably want a way to get mail no one else can read. Internet mail services do that, giving you access to private, secure mailboxes independent of your ISP.

Why is it free?


Nothing in life is free, right? So how do you pay for free e-mail on the Internet? Ads. The questionnaire that you fill out to register for your mail account will also allow the mail service to target ads for your interests. And you'll see them every time you check your mail.

Where can I sign up?

411's RocketMail and Hotmail are the free e-mail game's big kids on the block. Both provide worldwide access to e-mail accounts via Web browsers. Both use forms to interface with your account's inbox, message editing, and storage.


The only real differences between the two services are cosmetic, as you can see in the comparison of features below. Both services have fast response times, though Hotmail seems a little graphic heavy. RocketMail uses the 411 white pages for searches, Hotmail uses Infospace.

Hotmail has a more comprehensive policy on spam (unsolicited "junk" mail) -- it doesn't let users send it out and will work with users to keep it from coming in. Rocketmail's policy also prohibits users from sending spam.

Features RocketMail Hotmail
HTML in messages
(live links, embedded images)
yes yes
Attached files yes yes
(automatic message sorting)
yes yes
Spell checker yes yes
Address book yes yes
Address look-up
(white pages search)
yes yes
Message drafts yes yes
Spam policy
(anti-unsolicited e-mail)
yes yes
No-frame option yes yes
Customizable interface yes yes
User tips yes yes
Online help yes no


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