Web E-mail
When Microsoft sees something that threatens to make its software unecessary, optional, or obsolete... they take it over. Hotmail offered a way for people to send and read e-mail from any computer with any browser, making Microsoft Outlook (and even Windows) irrelevant. So Microsoft bought the company. Converting the system to run on Windows servers instead of the FreeBSD systems it originally ran on has caused serious performance problems. Meanwhile, the system has been plagued by security breaches which have allowed other people to read users' mail. There are dozens and dozens of alternatives... here are some of the better-known and most-recommended:
high quality low price Hushmail offers something most web-based e-mail services don't: strong security. Using private/public-key encryption, secure sockets, and a Java applets, it offers end-to-end privacy when sending e-mail from one Hushmail user to another, or when communicating with someone whose e-mail client supports standard PGP encryption. (You can also send e-mail to unsecure users, but without the security of course.) Hushmail's security features don't work with WebTV, however.
close match high quality low price challenge MS MyRealBox is a free service (for personal use) with no advertising included, and no spamming tolerated. It's run by Novell as a live demonstration of their NetMail e-mail software, showing off how well it works in integration with their eDirectory directory service, and its advanced features like virus and spam filtering, calendaring, collecting e-mail from other accounts, forwarding, etc. You can use one of the web interfaces (with any browser at all), or a standard POP or IMAP client. my choice
close match high quality low price challenge MS Google's Gmail is still "officially" in beta testing, but is already a major player in webmail, by offering huge amounts of storage space, and their cutting-edge search technology to help you find what you're looking for in all that clutter.
close match low price Lycos Mail offers both a free service, and an inexpensive pay service. Both include spam filtering (which I'm told is very effective). The free service is advert-supported. The pay service allows POP access to your account, more storage, and the ability to collect your e-mail from several external POP accounts.
close match low price Mail.com is only one of the many domains registered by these folks. They have dozens more, including various countries, professions, attitudes, hobbies, etc. which are easier to remember and to associate with you. That makes it easier if you'd rather tell someone your e-mail address rather than having to spell or write it down for them.
close match low price Yahoo offers spam filtering, a well-known domain name, the ability to access your account using a standard POP e-mail client, and you can run a program on your PC that will notify you when you have mail in your Yahoo account (as well as provinding "instant message" access from other Yahoo users).
close match low price SoftHome.net comes highly recommended for its reliability. If offers free ad-supported e-mail and also no-advertising e-mail for a fee. Mail can be checked through a web browser or a standard POP/SMTP e-mail client.
low price Run your own. It certainly isn't for everyone, but if you have your own web server on the internet, webmail isn't hard to add. There are various options out there, but I know from experience that SquirrelMail is easy to install (I first did it on a whim) and works nicely. The main thing it requires is a web server (preferably Apache) with PHP support, and you need to have access to a server offering SMTP (Sendmail, Postfix, Qmail, etc.) and IMAP (WU, Cyrus, Courier, etc). Unix-like systems are ideal, but it works on Windows as well. It's free. Another well-recommended free webmail interface is IMP. my choice Unix-like Windows
close match a close match or substitute for Microsoft's product
high quality an especially high-quality alternative
low price an inexpensive (or even free) alternative
challenge MS offers a strong challenge to Microsoft's influence
my choice my personal selection
Runs on: Windows Windows, Mac OS Mac OS, Unix-like Unix-like systems, Java Java-compatible systems, Symbian Symbian OS, Palm OS Palm OS, Netware Netware, OpenVMS OpenVMS, BeOS BeOS, OS/2 OS/2, Amiga Amiga, RISC OS RISC OS, DOS DOS
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Comments? Suggestions of other alternatives to include? Send them in, to "contact me at rzero dot com" (without the spaces)

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