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Webmail (or web-based email) is an
email service
email service
that can be accessed using a standard
web browser A web browser (commonly referred to as a browser) is application software for accessing the World Wide Web. When a User (computing), user requests a web page from a particular website, the web browser retrieves the necessary content from a web ...

web browser
. It contrasts with email service accessible through a specialised email client software. Examples of webmail providers are 1&1 Ionos,
AOL Mail AOL Mail (stylized as Aol Mail.) is a free web-based email service provided by AOL, a division of Verizon Communications. Features AOL Mail has the following features available: * Email attachment limit: 25 Megabyte, MB * Max mailbox size: 1,000 ...
,
Gmail Gmail is a free email service provided by Google. As of 2019, it had 1.5 billion active user (computing), users worldwide. A user typically accesses Gmail in a web browser or the official mobile app. Google also supports the use of email clie ...
, GMX Mail,
Mailfence Mailfence is an encrypted email service that offers OpenPGP based end-to-end encryption and digital signatures. It was launched in November 2013 by ContactOffice Group, which has been operating an Online office suite, online collaboration suite fo ...

Mailfence
, Outlook.com/Hotmail.com,
Yahoo! Mail Yahoo! Mail is an email service launched on October 8, 1997, by the American company Yahoo!, now a subsidiary of Verizon. It offers four different email plans: three for personal use (Basic, Plus, and Ad Free) and another for businesses. As of Ja ...
and
IceWarp Mail Server IceWarp Mail Server is a business Email server, Email and Collaborative software, Collaboration server developed by IceWarp, IceWarp Ltd. It features email with custom domain, shared calendars, documents editing, messaging and advanced tool for tea ...
. Additionally, many
internet service provider An Internet service provider (ISP) is an organization that provides a myriad of services for accessing, using, or participating in the Internet The Internet (or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that ...
s provide webmail as part of their internet service package. Similarly, some web hosting providers also provide webmail as a part of their hosting package. Webmail access is made possible through webmail software, such as
Roundcube Roundcube is a web-based IMAP In computing, the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) is an Internet standard protocol used by email client Image:Mozilla Thunderbird 78.6.0 screenshot.png, 250px, Mozilla Thunderbird email client user interf ...

Roundcube
or
SquirrelMail SquirrelMail is a project that aims to provide both a webmail, web-based email client and a proxy server for the IMAP protocol. The latest stable version 1.4.23-svn is tested with PHP up to version 7.3 and replaces version 1.4.22 which can only r ...
, installed and running on the
email server Within the Internet email upThe email_address.html"_;"title="at_sign,_a_part_of_every_SMTP_email_address">at_sign,_a_part_of_every_SMTP_email_address Electronic_mail_(email_or_e-mail)_is_a_method_of_exchanging_messages_("mail")_between_peopl ...
. As with any web application, webmail's main advantage over the use of a desktop
email client Image:Thunderbird 91.4.1 screenshot.png, 250px, Mozilla Thunderbird email client user interface on a Linux operating system An email client, email reader or, more formally, message user agent (MUA) or mail user agent is a computer program used to ...
is the ability to send and receive email anywhere from a web browser. Its main disadvantage is the need to be connected to the Internet while using it.


History


Early implementations

The first Web Mail implementation was developed at
CERN The European Organization for Nuclear Research (french: Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire), known as CERN (; ; derived from the name ), is a European research organization that operates the largest particle physics laborat ...
in 1993 by
Phillip Hallam-Baker Phillip Hallam-Baker is a computer scientist, mostly renowned for his contributions to Internet security, since the design of HTTP at CERN in 1992. Currently vice-president and principal scientist at Comodo Group, Comodo Inc., he previously worked ...
as a test of the HTTP protocol stack, but was not developed further. In the next two years, however, several people produced working webmail applications. In Europe, there were three implementations, Søren Vejrum's "WWW Mail", Luca Manunza's "WebMail", and Remy Wetzels' "WebMail". Søren Vejrum's "WWW Mail" was written when he was studying and working at the
Copenhagen Business School Copenhagen Business School ( Danish'': Handelshøjskolen i København'') often abbreviated and referred to as CBS (also in Danish), is a public university A public university or public college is a university or college that is in state ownershi ...
in Denmark, and was released on February 28, 1995. Luca Manunza's "WebMail" was written while he was working at
CRS4 CRS4, also known as Center for Advanced Studies, Research and Development in Sardinia (Italian language, Italian: Centro di Ricerca, Sviluppo e Studi Superiori in Sardegna), is an interdisciplinary research center, founded by the Sardinia, Sardi ...
in Sardinia, from an idea of Gianluigi Zanetti, with the first source release on March 30, 1995. Remy Wetzels' "WebMail" was written while he was studying at the
Eindhoven University of Technology The Eindhoven University of Technology ( nl, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven), abbr. TU/e, is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an orga ...
in the Netherlands for the DSE and was released early January 1995. In the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
, Matt Mankins wrote "Webex",comp.mail.misc
Webex Announcement
August 8, 1995.
and Bill Fitler, while at Lotus cc:Mail, began working on an implementation which he demonstrated publicly at
LotusphereLotusphere was an American annual Business conference, conference hosted by Lotus Software (which later became an IBM software brand) from 1993 to 2017. In 2013, Lotusphere was re-branded as IBM Connect. Except for the first conference, which took p ...
on January 24, 1995. Matt Mankins, under the supervision of Dr. Burt Rosenberg at the
University of Miami The University of Miami (informally referred to as UM, Miami, UMiami, U of M or The U) is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdo ...
, released his "Webex" application source code in a post to comp.mail.misc on August 8, 1995, although it had been in use as the primary email application at the School of Architecture where Mankins worked for some months prior. Bill Fitler's webmail implementation was further developed as a commercial product, which Lotus announced and released in the fall of 1995 as ''cc:Mail for the World Wide Web 1.0''; thereby providing an alternative means of accessing a cc:Mail message store (the usual means being a cc:Mail desktop application that operated either via dialup or within the confines of a local area network). Early commercialization of webmail was also achieved when "Webex" began to be sold by Mankins' company, DotShop, Inc., at the end of 1995. Within DotShop, "Webex" changed its name to "EMUmail"; which would be sold to companies like UPS and Rackspace until its sale to Accurev in 2001. EMUmail was one of the first applications to feature a free version that included embedded advertising, as well as a licensed version that did not.
Hotmail Outlook.com is a personal information manager web app A web application (or web app) is application software that runs on a web server, unlike computer-based software programs that are run locally on the operating system An operating s ...
and Four11's RocketMail both launched in 1996 as free services and immediately became very popular.


Widespread deployment

As the 1990s progressed, and into the 2000s, it became more common for the general public to have access to webmail because: * many
Internet service provider An Internet service provider (ISP) is an organization that provides a myriad of services for accessing, using, or participating in the Internet The Internet (or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that ...
s (such as
EarthLink EarthLink is an American Internet service provider. It went public on NASDAQ in January 1997. Much of the company's growth was via acquisition; by 2000, ''The New York Times ''The New York Times'' (''NYT'' or ''NY Times'') is an American ...
) and web hosting providers (such as Verio) began bundling webmail into their service offerings (often in parallel with
POP Pop or POP may refer to: Places * Gregorio Luperón International Airport (IATA code POP), Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic * Pop, a tributary of the river Jijia in eastern Romania * Poppleton railway station (station code), York, England People ...
/
SMTP The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is an internet standard An Internet Standard in computer network engineering refers to the normative specification of a technology that is appropriate for the Internet. Internet Standards allow interoper ...
services); * many other enterprises (such as universities and large corporations) also started offering webmail as a way for their user communities to access their email (either locally managed or outsourced); * webmail service providers (such as
Hotmail Outlook.com is a personal information manager web app A web application (or web app) is application software that runs on a web server, unlike computer-based software programs that are run locally on the operating system An operating s ...
and
RocketMail RocketMail was one of the first major free webmail Webmail (or web-based email) is an email service that can be accessed using a standard web browser A web browser (commonly referred to as a browser) is application software for accessing ...
) emerged in 1996 as a free service to the general public, and rapidly gained in popularity. In some cases, webmail application software is developed in-house by the organizations running and managing the application, and in some cases it is obtained from software companies that develop and sell such applications, usually as part of an integrated mail server package (an early example being Netscape Messaging Server). The market for webmail application software has continued into the 2010s.


Rendering and compatibility

Email users may find the use of both a webmail client and a desktop client using the
POP3 In computing, the Post Office Protocol (POP) is an application-layer An application layer is an abstraction layerIn computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes t ...
protocol presents some difficulties. For example, email messages that are downloaded by the desktop client and are removed from the server will no longer be available on the webmail client. The user is limited to previewing messages using the web client before they are downloaded by the desktop email client. However, one may choose to leave the emails on the server, in which case this problem does not occur. The use of both a webmail client and a desktop client using the IMAP4 protocol allows the contents of the mailbox to be consistently displayed in both the webmail and desktop clients and any action the user performs on messages in one interface will be reflected when the email is accessed via the other interface. There are significant differences in rendering capabilities for many popular webmail services such as
Gmail Gmail is a free email service provided by Google. As of 2019, it had 1.5 billion active user (computing), users worldwide. A user typically accesses Gmail in a web browser or the official mobile app. Google also supports the use of email clie ...
,
Outlook.com Outlook.com is a personal information manager web app from Microsoft consisting of webmail, Calendaring software, calendaring, Address book, contacts, and Task management, tasks services. Founded in 1996 by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith (Hotmai ...
and
Yahoo! Mail Yahoo! Mail is an email service launched on October 8, 1997, by the American company Yahoo!, now a subsidiary of Verizon. It offers four different email plans: three for personal use (Basic, Plus, and Ad Free) and another for businesses. As of Ja ...
. Due to the varying treatment of
HTML The HyperText Markup Language, or HTML is the standard markup language #REDIRECT Markup language In computer text processing, a markup language is a system for annotation, annotating a document in a way that is Syntax (logic), syntacticall ...

HTML
tags, such as