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Email, a Brief Tutorial
Please accept my apologies in advance as email may a bit confusing, even as I try to explain it.
In its most general sense, Email is messaging through the Internet. Like sending letters through the Mail. Simple so far. You do KNOW what a letter is?
So your email address is actually an email account - an account that you - or someone else - actually, uh, "owns." Details, details - like the rest of the Internet, don't worry who owns what. So, an email address is like your home address, and your mailbox is like your home's mailbox. Not bad so far. Do you own or rent? Never mind!
Terms of Email
Accounts & Addresses
These are terms used in the jargon of Email. You'll forget most of them once we're done here, probably.
Email are these messages, comprised largely of text, often formatted with HTML and accompanied with embedded images and attachments. Yadda-yadda-yad... wait, I just got a new message. BRB.
Clients are programs that allow you to read, store, send & receive and otherwise manage the details of your email. To many in the PC world, Outlook & Outlook Express were your first introductions to email clients. These are programs that sit on your computer.
To send & receive email, an email client (program) does need to connect to the Internet. After sending & receiving, though, the program is done with the Internet - until it needs to send/receive again.
How many times a day do you go to the mailbox?
Note that when a program has sent & received your email, those messages sit on the hard drive of your computer. Is it safe there? Are there any other copies? Sigh. Moving on....
Accounts - I have always thought of email accounts as akin to real mail addresses. I wonder today if that's a safe assumption for the future, that is, during my lifetime. Anyhow, an email account generally is assigned to a particular person.
Address - The email address can be interchangeable with the account, but the account itself holds extra details about the account holder and, of course, includes the account password.
An address is comprised of an addressee, a domain and a root. Visually:
So my gmail account might be Robert@gmail.com, where the addressee is Robert, the domain is google and the root is com. Except there were 9,482,012 other Roberts before me that tried to snag it and only the first one did. But enough about me.
Most people think of a domain as google.com, or consumerreports.org, or whitehouse.gov.
Y'know, the write-up at Wikipedia is great - click here.
Servers are computer systems that store & process email. I think of them as the local post offices, both large & small. Your mail comes through them and then delivers them to home or work. They're essential but you could go a lifetime without ever visiting one personally.
Hosts are companies that offer email accounts, servers, processing and support for both large and small customers. I don't have a good, real-world analogy for them; banks, perhaps. They make money for dealing in mail.
Providers vary. Google, Yahoo, AOL & Microsoft are providers. They host domains themselves that allow you to create email accounts.
If you get email through work or school or an organization, you could think of that place as the provider. At least, they would be the provider of the account.
If you set up your own domain and add email hosting, then the host of your email is your provider.
Webmail - Do you go to a website to get or send your email? That's webmail!
In less simpler terms, webmail is a website that serves as email client. You can read, create, send, delete and otherwise manage your email and your email account through this web page. So an Internet connection is always required to get messages or manage any other aspect of an email account.
Most email from work or school or other organizations can be accessed through their own webmail site.
Any browser should connect to any webmail account. However, some web pages, in general and including webmail, may work better in some browsers than others.
Okay, so I tried explain, tried to be funny, I succeeded at neither; let's move on to email programs!