"Snail mail" is a term used to refer to mail that is sent in the traditional way — through the postal service — rather than by email, fax, or other electronic means of communication. It is given this name because it can be very slow, as is a snail. Postal mail generally takes two or three days to go from origin to destination, if not many more, whereas email can be sent instantly.
With email, a message is sent directly from a user's mail program to another person's email address. Though many email messages simply contain words, they may also include photos or other digital files, such as songs, or links to websites. Since most people in Western society now use email on a regular basis, snail mail has gone out of fashion for simple letters, though it is still necessary for sending packages or legal documents that require signatures.
Though the postal service seems to have gone out of style for many uses today, it has a long history all over the world. The first postal systems in the world originated in Persia and China, and date back to possibly as early as 1700 BC. These early mail systems relied on messengers who rode horses from town to town, and most mail was delivered to government officials or royals.
Today, snail mail is sent through both public and private services, and it can be delivered internationally. In the United States, the US Postal Service is the most common method of delivery for a letter or package, though private carriers are frequently used by online retailers to ship their goods. Under the postal service method, individuals pay for the service by pasting stamps on their letter or package, which are equivalent to a specific amount of money. The price to send a piece of mail varies depending on the package's weight and whether or not it is traveling internationally.
Until the 1990s, it was very common to send personal letters using the postal service. Many people have stored collections of letters from friends and loved ones, and the personal correspondence of many writers, artists, and other celebrities have been compiled into books. With the advent of email communication, postal mail is used much less frequently for personal letters; however, it is still the only method for sending larger packages from one place to another. Although its uses have changed over the years, it is still a valuable system.