Electronic Mail (popularly known as email) is a digital medium of communication widely used to exchange messages across the Internet. It was invented by Ray Tomlinson in 1972. Email is used for sending and receiving electronic messages over the Internet. You can send or receive an email using a desktop computer, mobile phone or any other electronic gadget that supports desktop or web-based applications.
Companies such as Google and Microsoft that provide email functionality maintain huge server farms to store the large volume of data that is created. You can send text, audio, and video to a recipient in a single email message. In order to use email, you must first register and setup an account with an email provider such as Google, Yahoo or Microsoft. Once your account is verified, you can send and receive emails that get delivered within a few seconds and it is completely free of cost.
Email Versus Traditional Mail
Email provides a number of features and benefits that have given it an edge over traditional mail (also known as snail mail). As a result of this, email usage has overtaken traditional mail in such a way that it has almost become a thing of the past. Nowadays, no one has the time or patience to wait for a letter that can take days to come.
The main benefits of email over snail (regular mail) mail are:
Simplicity: Email is easy to use. Users can send and receive communication by typing the message in an email editor. The interface of the editor is similar to Microsoft Word with which most people using computers are already familiar. Email allows you to electronically store the messages that are sent and received.
Address book and other productivity tools: Email is integrated with the address book, calendar, instant messaging and other productivity tools that are available in Windows and other operating systems.
Speed: Email is delivered instantly to the recipient since it is done electronically. This ensures that there is no delay unlike traditional mail.
Cost effectiveness: Email usage is free on the Internet unlike traditional mail. Therefore, it is highly desirable. For example, Gmail, Rediffmail, Yahoo mail and so on.
Easy mail management: Email service providers provide multiple features that help you to easily manage your inbox. You can create different labels and assign them to emails in order to group them together. Additionally, you can filter, prioritise and send emails to different groups. An inbuilt mechanism identifies incoming Spam and automatically directs it to the Spam folder.
Communication with multiple people: Internet email service allows users to communicate with multiple people at the same time. Therefore, an email can be addressed to multiple recipients unlike a letter.
Accessibility: Email can be accessed anytime, anywhere, across the globe. Moreover, you can access it using a host of devices such as laptops, smartphones, tablets and so on.
For using email, users need an email account. Each account is assigned a unique email address. You need to use your email address for sending and receiving email messages. In simple terms, it is the equivalent of the address written on the envelope of a letter that can be posted.
An email address (for both sender and receiver) has two parts, username and domain name. Username is the name that identifies the user and domain name hosts the email account. Both are separated by the ‘@’symbol. An email address has the form: [email protected]; where the username can be up to 64 characters long and the domain can have a maximum of 255 characters. For example; [email protected]
Structure of an Email
There is a fixed structure for every email message. It is accepted and followed as a standard all over the world.
An email message is primarily composed of three parts: header, message body and signature.
Header: An email header contains detailed information about the email rather than the body text; such as the sender’s, recipient’s address, date and time when the message was sent and subject of the message. The subject line provides a brief description about the content of the email. The header provides an option to include the email address of other recipients in case the email is sent to more than one recipient.
Message body: The message body contains the actual content of the message which is in the form of text. It may also include attachments such as audio, videos, software, files of different formats, etc. The content of the email may vary according to the different email systems used by each user.
Signature: Signature of email is the part that provides the information of the sender to the recipient. This part may also include signature or text generated automatically by the sender’s email system. User can also set their email account to enter the signature line automatically on the emails sent.
Exchanging emails is a part of daily routine. Emails are sent and received regularly; be it relevant emails or spam mails. Email client applications such as Gmail and Rediffmail can be accessed using a web browser such as Google Chrome or Microsoft Internet Explorer. You need to visit the provider’s website, such as www.gmail.com. Alternatively, you can double-click the shortcut on your desktop to launch the email client application installed on your machine, such as Microsoft Outlook to start the email editor. Either ways, the features that are provided are the same.
Using an email client application, you can organise emails and store emails locally on the computer so that they can be accessed offline. Sometimes, email clients offer features that web-based clients don’t offer, such as address book, lists, global address list and personal contacts. The most commonly used email service providers are Opera Mail, Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, PocoMail, and Mailbird.
Compose and Send an Email
An Email is sent to a recipient in different stage, involving multiple parties. The stages for sending a simple mail message are:
- The sender composes the mail message using an email service.
- Once the sender send the message, along with the attachments (if any), it is uploaded to the simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) server as an outgoing mail
- The SMTP server communication with the Domain name server (DNS) to locate the email server of the recipient.
- If the recipient’s email server is found then the message is transferred to it else the sender receives a delivery failure notification.
- The recipient (if found) receives and downloads the message.