Hot on the Web
Lost in Cyberspace
Online San Diego
Feature Articles
Book Reviews and Reading Diary
Music Reviews
Favorite quotates
Contact Me

Lost in Cyberspace

Free e-mail undercuts the Postal Service

This article was originally published on August 25, 1998 by SignOn San Diego and Copley News Service.

A few weeks back we looked at ways of getting a free Web site. One drawback we found was that many of the companies offering free Web space require an existing e-mail account in order to establish a free Web page.

Which for most folks on the 'Net isn't a problem – if you already have an Internet account, it almost always comes with an e-mail account as well.

But for people on a limited income or who don't own a computer, establishing an e-mail account can be more difficult. No one has hard figures, but there are undoubtedly thousands, if not more, using free public terminals at libraries or schools for their Internet access.

Other people may only have one e-mail account with their Internet account, but would like more addresses for family members.

In any case, there are several options for getting a free e-mail account.

If you don't have Internet service of any type but do have a Windows-based personal computer and modem, then Juno may be your best bet. As with the companies offering free Web pages (HomeStead, Tripod, GeoCities), Juno's income is derived from selling advertising to folks using its service – meaning you don't have to pay anything for using Juno.

Juno's free e-mail service is built around a custom, AOL-like interface. When you launch the program, you are given the option of reading old messages, composing a new message or checking for new mail. When Juno dials into the company's system to download your e-mail (as with AOL, Juno has thousands of local numbers so that most folks won't have to make a toll call), it also downloads new advertisements it then displays above the text of your e-mail. Juno is, however, available only for Windows.

For folks who have a non-Windows computer and a modem, some bulletin board system (BBS) operators offer free or low-cost e-mail accounts. Nearly any computer ever built can access a BBS via modem, meaning even if you're using one of the older machines that lack a graphical user interface you can still have Internet e-mail. Commodore 64, Apple II, Atari 800 or '286 owners might find it worthwhile to explore this option. To get phone numbers for local BBSs, try contacting your local computer club or independent computer store.

If you use a public terminal or already have Internet access from home but want to add additional e-mail accounts, quite a few companies now offer free e-mail via the Web.

Among the better-known are Yahoo and Netscape. Both are good solutions for those who are using public Internet terminals, as you maintain and access your account with a Web browser rather than special e-mail software that might not be available on a public terminal.

Other sites offering similar services are Nando, Excite, Lycos, AltaVista, LookSmart, WhoWhere? and Microsoft's Hotmail.

Before signing up with any of them, be sure to read the agreements to see if they're going to sell your e-mail address or personal information elsewhere.