it’s a mail world

Supriya is on the Net at least one hour a
day, half of it being on email. Email has become an integral part of her life, and little
did she realize this when she joined Beetle India Ltd, over a year ago. Immersed in
herself and her thoughts, Supriya had never touched a computer before she joined the
company, which believes in giving a desktop with Internet access to every employee. With
the free email service from Hotmail, that she subscribes to, Supriya has become
communication savvy and has friends in India as well as outside. She is in touch with her
friends everyday-via email.

Free email services have revolutionized
even the normal person’s way of life and not just your silk-tie executive types, who
flaunted their email IDs on their business cards.

Now more and more people are having their
own email accounts on the Web. According to rough estimates, for every Internet account
being subscribed, one would find at least five email accounts being subscribed. If there
are roughly one lakh subscribers in India currently, the number of people having email
accounts would easily amount to 5 lakh, and this is not counting people having more than
one email account. The credit predominantly goes to Hotmail (www.hotmail.com), which
claims to be the world’s most popular free email service. Then you have a plethora of
other email services being launched here and there.

The interface of each of these email
service is unique in itself and each gives its own variety of services. Hotmail still is
one of the most feature-rich, though many people have trouble accessing their mail because
of problems related to server uptime and access glitches due to heavy graphic content.
Yahoo! mail (www.mail.yahoo.com), which took over the Four 11 services and Rocketmail
(www.rocketmail.com), is another formidable service, estimated to have a huge subscription
base. Both the services let you subscribe to various news and information services, the
options for which range from lifestyle and child rearing to music, business, and
technology, apart from email.

service is the game
If there is one field where service is important, then it is free email. News and advice
services and the availability of interest groups together form the

crux of the free email providers’
gameplan to capture the imagination of a customer base which is spread across the globe.
Based on geographic area and profile of the customers, the services can be customized by
the user at the time of subscribing itself, with the ability of undertaking changes at any
point in time.

Hotmail provides a comprehensive list of
custom-subscribed news services in various fields ranging from parenting and music reviews
to business, political, and technical news according to the subscribers’ interests.
In addition, it offers NetGuide which informs the users about how to go about browsing the
various web sites on the Net. Yahoo!, which has a partnership with The Globe
(www.globe.com), is probably the only one to provide the most comprehensive suite of
services to the user. The services include Yahoo! Chat (wherein one can get into a chat
with in anyone in the world in the horde of chatrooms), Yahoo! Pager (sending messages to
friends who are online), Yahoo! Visa (platinum card to make purchases in the US), Yahoo!
Messenger (scoops on what is happening on the Net delivered to the mail account), Yahoo!
Classifieds (situations vacant and situations wanted), and Computer Buyers Guide.

Junk Mail

One of the main problems plaguing the email account
holders is of junk mail. If you remember, junk mail was a problem in snail mail not so
long ago. Almost all of us must have received irritating chain letters, which were often
blackmailing in nature and were a real test to our scientific temperament. The same thing
is happening on the Web too with emailers sending and receiving such mail, which is purely
disturbing. One such mail doing the rounds is about a girl suffering from cancer and for
each person that the mail is sent to, she would get some money from the US National Cancer
Society. And the letter is titled-’you have no heart if you delete this mail’.

Another one of such mails which make
(force) people to pass a mail was supposedly from Bill Gates who was trying to track down
the number of people the mail is sent to, in effect beta testing a software patch which
enables ISPs to track down mail. The mail tempted by saying that if it is sent to one
million people, then those one million will get a free copy of Windows or other MS
software package.

These are nothing but irritants in the
initial stages of a service becoming popular, which hopefully will end and email will be
put to more important and productive use.

Another email service, Indiamail
(www.indiamail.com), has set itself apart from others by offering different host names.
You can have a host name which goes along with your profession (***@doctor.com,
***@engineer.com and ***@technologist.com); or your character (***@cheerful.com). Of this,
some of the iname addresses come with a price. On the other hand, Geocities
(www.geocities.com) and The Globe (www.theglobe.com) allow you create your own web page
apart from having a free email account. The latter also has a multitude of interest groups
on singles, couples etc., and LiveWire and agony aunt columns (e.g. Lola) on various
problems are also available. AltaVista Search Service, one of the first search engine,
provides free email to users with iname, much like IndiaMail. But some of the iname
services also come for a charge.

everybody on the net
It has been already proved that email is the driving force behind the usage of the
Internet. But the potential of the free email services far exceeds the email accounts
offered by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs). So much so that Microsoft has taken over
Hotmail to gain a share of the much lucrative email pie. Digital’s AltaVista has
realized this, and entered into the field only now.

As most organizations do not provide email
accounts to all their employees, these kind of services provide the users with the
facility of having an account in one’s name. Many of the users are not only
first-time users of Internet, but many are also the first-time computer users. This comes
from the huge psychological satisfaction of having an Internet address in one’s name,
exclusive to oneself, which can be used from anywhere in the world. Apart from this, this
also gives the users a sense of satisfaction, a feeling of pride that he is using
technology or has become tech savvy.

The last one year has been the one when the
email has become nearly ubiquitous, with most of us logging onto the Net everyday. This is
also augmented by the availability of sites for alumni of schools and universities. These
sites aid in people getting in touch with their ex-mates of school or colleges.

But there are some pitfalls too of
subscribing to a free email service. Promotional offers, advertisements on the top,
bottom, or the sides of the web pages are some of them. And most of them are about buying
things online, which are mostly US or Europe-centric and cannot be done from India. One of
the main problems is the database of users categorized into geographies, professions etc.,
being sold to those interested in catching dealers, distributors, or partners for their
business interests. But these factors are overridden by the sheer facility of being able
to send and receive email. With everybody getting on to the Web, email is probably the
next best thing to happen in personalized communication, after Alexander Graham Bell
invented the telephone. Happy emailing!

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