Webmail, as the name would suggest, is a website which offers users
the ability to write, read, and edit electronic mail. Before webmail
was introduced by companies such as Yahoo!, a standalone program
was needed to access email, called an email client, Eudora and Thunderbird
are two such examples of an email client.
One of the purposes of webmail is for easier access to email. The
drawback to an email client is that it needs to be installed onto
a computer, whereas webmail can be accessed by any computer with
Internet access and a browser installed. This provides increased
accessibility, because a user can use webmail to access email from
an increased amount of potential computers.
The World Wide Web was only an idea in 1989, so it's obvious that
webmail was created after this date. It's generally accepted that
a number of people began the process of developing webmail at the
same time, from 1994 to 1995. It was soon after that date that Hotmail
began developing it's own free webmail service, which was eventually
purchased by Microsoft in 1997.
Commercial webmail services have been launched by countless online
companies, and are usually offered by most Internet Service Providers.
Some of the most successful stand alone webmail services include
Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail. Gmail (Google Mail) altered the landscape
of webmail by offering a storage capacity that was higher than webmail
with a monthly fee. This made paid for webmail commerical redundant,
and has forced webmail companies to think of other ways to monatize
their service, such as targeted advertising.
Webmail and email clients are not always compatible when the POP3
mail protocol is used, whereas there is no such compatibility issues
with the popular IMAP4 mail protocol. There is no standard protocol
for how email content is rendered, therefore it differs on each