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Email (Electronic Mail)

Electronic mail, commonly called email or e-mail, is a method of exchanging digital messages across the Internet or other computer networks. Originally, email was transmitted directly from one user to another computer. This required both computers to be online at the same time, in the same way that instant message systems are now. Today's email systems are based on a store-and-forward model. This means that email servers accept messages, forward them on to the destination server (if necessary), then deliver them to the recipient when they are online.

Users no longer need be online simultaneously and need only connect briefly, typically to an email server, for as long as it takes to send or receive messages. An email message consists of two components, the message header, and the message body, which is the email's content. The message header contains control information, including, minimally, an originator's email address and one or more recipient addresses. Usually additional information is added, such as a subject header field.

Originally, email was a text-only communication medium. It was was later extended to carry multi-media content attachments (eg pictures), which are called Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME).

Advantages
  • Emails are delivered extremely fast when compared to traditional post.
  • Emails can be sent 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • Webmail means emails can be sent and received from any computer, anywhere in the world, that has an Internet connection.
  • Cheap - when using broadband, each email sent is effectively free. Dial-up users are charged at local call rates but it only takes a few seconds (for conventional email, eg text only) to send an email.
  • Emails can be sent to one person or several people.
Dis-advantages
  • The recipient needs access to the Internet to receive email. Viruses are easily spread via email attachments (most email providers scan emails for viruses on your behalf).
  • Phishing - sending an email to a user falsely claiming to be a legitimate company to scam the user into providing information, such as personal information and bank account numbers on a bogus website. The details will then be used for identity theft.
  • No guarantee the mail will be read until the user logs on and checks their email.
  • Spam - unsolicited email, ie junk mail.