These days, email is considered a necessity. It’s a vital means of communication, whether for personal, professional or business correspondence. Even if there are other ways to communicate online, such as instant messaging, Voice over Internet Protocol, or social networks, email is still the de facto standard for sending and receiving messages.
Free email services are a dime a dozen. These are mostly webmail services, in which you don’t need to install or set up a local email client in order to access your messages. Among the more popular email services today are Google’s Gmail and MSN Hotmail.
Google revolutionized email communication with several exciting features. First is the big inbox it offers to users. It started with 2 Gigabytes per user, and now, Gmail offers about 7.4 Gigabytes of email space, and growing. Gmail also shows your messages in conversation view, instead of single emails. This helps put messages in context. Gmail also features a powerful search functionality, owing to the search technology of its mother company. Best of all, Gmail is free, unless you want more space, in which you can actually pay a nominal amount for an increase.
Signing up for Gmail involves a few easy steps.
- Navigate to mail.google.com to access the Gmail main page. If you’re in the UK, you would need to navigate to googlemail.com. You will be shown a login box. If you don’t have an account yet click the “Create an Account” button at the bottom right.
- Enter your details. You are asked to input your first name, surname, desired email address, security question and answer, location, and your desired password twice.
- Input the characters that you read from the human verification image. This ensures that you are a real person, and not a spambot creating accounts automatically.
- Read the terms of service. This might differ depending on the country you are from.
- If you agree to the terms of service, and if all the details you’ve inputted are correct, you can now click the button that says “I accept. Create my account.”
- Gmail will then show you an introduction screen, that highlights the features of Gmail. Click the “Show me my account” button to continue.
After these steps, you would already have your own Gmail account. The default inbox contains a few messages that can help introduce you to the features of Gmail, such as mobile access, importing of contacts, and the like.
Hotmail / MSN Live
Hotmail is the world’s first ever webmail service, and the brand was once spelled HoTMaiL, which stood for HTML. Signing up for a Hotmail account actually involves signing up for a Microsoft MSN Live account.
- Browse to mail.live.com. You will be redirected to Microsoft’s Windows Live account page, in which you can login to an existing account or create a new one. Since you need to create new account, click the “Sign up” button.
- Key in your details in the signup page. Enter your desired username, first name, surname, desired password, alternate email address, location, and birth year. You can click the “check availability” button to see if the username you want is not yet taken. You can choose from several options as your email address domain, such as live.com or hotmail.com.
- Enter the eight-character human verification image. If you are having difficulty reading this, you can press the refresh button to get a new image. Or, you can press the speaker button to make your computer read out the characters aloud.
- Click the “create account” button. Windows Live will then lead you straight to your inbox.
- At this point, your account still needs to be verified, to make sure you’re not a spammer. Create your first message by clicking the “New” link at the top navigation bar. Click the “Send” button. Windows Live will then ask you to enter characters from another human verification image. Enter the characters as you read them, and click the “Continue” button. You will be returned to your message. Click the “Send” button again if you intend to send this message already.
Free email accounts are usually supported by advertisements. These are displayed differently, though. The difference between Gmail and MSN Hotmail is that Gmail only displays ads on your end. Hotmail and other free email services might add a few lines of text below your outgoing messages to advertise their services.
Free email accounts let people around the world communicate with ease at a virtually no cost. Signing up for a free email account only takes a few steps, after which you can already get in touch with friends and family from all over the world.