From the April, 1998 PC ALAMODE Magazine:
Twists on E-mail
 
by Susan Ives

When you sign up with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) you get an e-mail address, and this is how most of us get our mail. Pretty straightforward. There are some twists on e-mail, however, that might suit you better. Here are three options that deserve a closer look.
 
 

Free E-Mail Forwarding:

One of the drawbacks to e-mail is that your address is tied to your ISP. If you change providers, you get a new e-mail address. And, unless you continue to pay your old provider, any mail sent to your old address will bounce. Ouch! 

Services such as NetAddress, BigFoot and NetForward offer permanent e-mail addresses. You register with them, select your permanent e-mail address, and enter your "real" e-mail address, the one tied to your current ISP. You then start using your permanent address and your mail is forwarded automatically from the service to your real account. Once you subscribe, the entire process is invisible - your mail is forwarded, and you do not have to reconfigure your e-mail program or make any other adjustments to start receiving mail at your new permanent address. You must have an Internet account to use these services.

 Who needs it? Obviously, people contemplating changing ISPs or who anticipate a geographical, business or school move will benefit. This is a permanent address that you can take with you, whomever you use as an ISP. You can update your "real" address from a password-protected form on the Web and your mail will find you, wherever you are..

 Another market is those who prefer not to use their business e-mail address for personal use - in fact, many employers prohibit personal use of a corporate address. It can also be a way of getting free additional e-mail addresses for family members - most ISPs charge a few extra dollars a month for each extra address. Another reason for signing up for a mail forwarding service is to obtain a memorable address instead of a string of numbers - instead of being 12345.6789@yourprovider.com you can be freddie@forward.net. Along the same lines, if you chose a funky e-mail address - studmuffin@isp.com - you can select a more dignified forwarding address to use for your resume or letterhead.

 Most services are free, subsidized by banner ads placed on the forwarding service's web site. A few charge a nominal amount - less than $10 a year. There can be drawbacks. If the forwarding service goes belly-up you don't get mail. One service I investigated, Email4life, had this notice on their web page: For the moment Email4LifeTM is down. We apologize for the inconvenience. Inconvenience? Disaster! I could be wrong, but I perceive more mail bounces when sent to forwarding addresses. Although all of the services promise that they will not sell your address to junk mailers, many people are skeptical of this. 

Note that this is not the same as an anonymous remailer, which is a service, often based overseas, that takes great pains to hide all traces of the origins of your e-mail so that you can remain undercover. A savvy analyst of e-mail headers could still track an address routed through a forwarding service back to your "real" Internet account. 

Free Web-based e-mail:

You can get an e-mail account that resides on the World Wide Web instead of being accessed by an e-mail program. You register with one of the many services - MailExcite, HotMail, NetAddress, MailCity, LycosEmail or BusyMail, for example - and select a password and e-mail address. You can then access your mail through a WWW page from any computer with Internet access. All are password-protected so that no one else can read your mail, and most have address books and other features you would expect from a full-fledged e-mail program. 

Why get it? This is a great system for people who have access to the Internet but do not have an Internet account of their own. If you use the Internet at the library or at school, for example, you can set up a free web-based e-mail account and send and receive e-mail from there. It is also a good temporary system for when you are on vacation or a business trip and don't have access to your own account. You can drop into an Internet café or other public terminal and still keep in touch. Some people also use this system when they are under close scrutiny at work and do not want any trace of personal e-mail on their employer's computer.

 These accounts can be slooooow to download, their main drawback. In general, you cannot send or receive attachments using this type of account. Some people worry about the security of e-mail that resides on a WWW server, and the validity of the promises not to sell your address to spammers. However, if you are without a personal ISP - or even if you don't have a computer of your own - this can get you connected, anywhere, for free.
 
 

Free Juno: 

Juno is free e-mail. It is a standalone program that requires that you have a computer and modem, but not an Internet account. To subscribe to Juno you need the Juno software, which you can get free from a friend who is on the Internet or by calling (800) 654-JUNO (have your Visa or Mastercard ready; they charge $8.82 to mail the disk to you.) Windows 3.x or 95 and a minimum 386 computer with a 9600bps modem are required. It is only available for the PC, not MAC, in the 50 states and Puerto Rico.

 You install the program, run through their simple registration process, and you've got mail. The interface is easy to use, and it has bells and whistles such as an address book and folders in which you can sort your mail. You can set up multiple e-mail addresses on one installation of the Juno program.

 This is a great service for people who do not have a regular ISP. E-mail is becoming almost as central to our lives as the telephone, and a Juno account is a zero-cost way of getting and sending mail. Juno is also perfect for people who need multiple e-mail addresses and do not want to pay their ISPs extra for the service. Both John and my cat, Jane, get their e-mail via Juno. It also works for people who have web access at work or school but need the ability to receive e-mail at home. 

Many people use a Juno account when they register on web sites that require it - it seems to cut back on the junk mail you receive in your regular account. Juno has local access numbers in 400 U.S. cities, so if you travel with a laptop you may be able to receive e-mail on the road without having to pay long distance charges to your local ISP. You can also sign on as a guest on any computer that has the Juno software installed, so you can read your mail from an out-of-town friend's computer.

 The downside is that you can not currently send or receive e-mail attachments via Juno. You also do not get access to any other part of the Internet via Juno. The service is paid for by ads that appear when you log into Juno - some people find this annoying, but it's a whole lot better than having to shell out your hard-earned bucks for the service. 

Susan Ives is the president of Alamo PC, as well as being the quarterback for this Internet theme issue. She gets lots of e-mail.