Email addresses are commonly assigned by your Internet service provider (ISP), but one can also obtain an email address through a website service. This is known as web based email.
Most people are familiar with setting up their email clients to receive mail through their ISP. The client asks for a POP server (Post Office Protocol) in order to receive mail, and a SMTP server (Standard Mail Transfer Protocol) in order to send mail. However, most email clients can also be used to collect web based email by configuring the client to connect to an IMAP server (Internet Message Access Protocol). The IMAP server is part of the host's package. That said, the more common way to access this mail is by using a browser.
Web based email has its advantages, especially for people who travel. Email can be collected by simply visiting a website, negating the need for an email client, or to logon from home. Wherever a public terminal with Internet access exists — from the library to a café to the airport or hotel — one can check, send and receive email quickly and easily.
Another advantage of this type of email is that it provides an alternate address allowing you to reserve your ISP address for personal use. If you would like to subscribe to a newsletter, enter a drawing, register at a website, participate in chats, or send feedback to a site, a web based email address is the perfect answer. It will keep non-personal mail on a server for you to check when you wish, rather than filling up your private email box.
Websites often share information provided them, but giving them a web email address means that junk mail will go to this disposable account instead of your personal account. Later, if you lose interest in the connections associated with this address, you can close or abandon it (as policy dictates) without ramifications to your standard email address. In short, such an email address can help keep your ISP mailbox uncluttered while still allowing you the flexibility to take advantage of Internet activities that require an address.
Most accounts come with a storage limit, usually more than the average person needs. Pictures, ringtones, MP3s or graphic files can all be kept here, saving room on your hard drive at home.
Many web based email services are free, but often the price tag is paid in advertisements that clutter and slow the interface. Other service providers include a small tagline attached to the end of each email sent. These services usually offer premium accounts, for a fee, that do not include taglines or advertisements.
People who have their own domains might also have web based email depending on the host's package. These types of accounts often come with POP and SMTP servers as well.