Miscellaneous Ramblings

10 Free POP3 Email Services

A 'Best of Miscellaneous Ramblings' Column

Charles Moore - 2002.04.08 - Tip Jar

This article has been superceded by 8 free POP3 email options published 2008.08.25.

My Miscellaneous Ramblings column on free POP3 email services published last October has been one of my most popular Low End Mac articles, but the world of free stuff on the Internet has been evolving rapidly since then.

Of the nine free POP3 email services I reviewed in the 2001 article, six have either changed to for-fee services (Crosswinds, Saintmail, and Yahoo), stopped accepting new free POP3 signups (Nettaxi), or are gone altogether (Unbounded Solutions and Visual Cities). Another new startup service, FastMail, has also dropped free POP3 service.

Crosswinds, Saintmail, Yahoo!, and FastMail still offer free Web-based email, but fees for continued POP3 are typically $19.95 to $29.95, or the equivalent of more than a month of full Internet access with my ISP (which has a POP3 email account included). I had email accounts with all of the above services, but I'm dropping them. There are still a good selection of free services available.

There are many advantages to having extra email accounts to separate, say, business mail from private correspondence, or to maintain a permanent personal email address not associated with your employment or present Internet provider. If you have kids, it's convenient for each to have his/her own email address.

I simply couldn't get along efficiently with just one email account. I have about 20, which is probably excessive, but it does help me keep my electronic correspondence organized - and if one particular email server goes down temporarily, it only affects a relatively small proportion of my email traffic.

Why POP3 Instead of Webmail?

There are still gazillions of free email services on the Internet, but the vast majority of them are Web-based, which means that you must access your mail with a browser. Web-based email can be convenient if you travel a lot or need to access your mail from computers you don't own, because you can use any computer, anywhere in the world, with Internet access. However, for most of us, POP3 email is more convenient.

POP3 email is the type of email account you access with client software like Eudora or Netscape Messenger or a wide selection of others. Incoming messages are received by a remote server and stay there until you download them to your own computer. With POP3, you can do all your email work offline except for actual sending and receiving of messages, which cuts down immensely on online time used, and since both outgoing and incoming messages are stored on your own hard drive, it's always easy and convenient to access your archives.

I use a variety free POP3 email services. The following short reviews are based mostly on personal experience.

Apple iTools

Apple's iTools service is the premier free email service for Mac users. I've been using iTools for email since the service inaugurated last year and have found it both quick and dependable. I also like the short domain name (mac.com) when typing my email address. iTools also offers a wide variety of other Web-based services when a sign up for an account.

In order to sign up, you need to download the iTools installer software from Apple's site and run it. The sign up procedure is reasonably straightforward, and I've found the service excellent. There have been a few server down incidents over the past two years, but they have always been brief. iTools also provides SMTP access for sending mail through Apple's server - so long as you have an email client that supports SMTP authentication.

mac.com is great, and a big thank you to Apple for providing this excellent service to Mac users.

MyRealBox

I've been using MyRealBox for over a year, and except for a few hiccups it has proved quite dependable and fast. MyRealBox (MRB) also offers SMTP support for outgoing mail.

MRB does not allow advertising and supports any standards based email client. Novell hosts this service to showcase its NIMS product and to test NIMS in a real world environment. There are currently over 150,000 users despite the fact that Novell has never advertised the existence of the site. MRB currently runs on three NetWare servers. NIMS also supports the Linux and Solaris operating systems.

Features:

  • a free email service with no advertising
  • up to 10 MB of email storage.

MRB No Spam Policy

Spam is no good.

Don't do it.

It causes bad karma and cancer (and perhaps some other diseases).

Yes, this is true.

No, it's not a joke.

Oh, and spammers rot in hell.

Not much else to say about this one. It works.

HotPOP

HotPOP LLC is a privately held company based in Newton, Massachusetts. Founded in 1998, HotPOP offers email accounts from various domains with a combination of features not found with other providers.

Features:

  • POP Access: Use almost any mail client you wish
  • SMTP Access: Send mail through the HotPOP server (you have to check your email first). You may include up to 50 recipients on a single message.
  • Mail Forwarding: Have your mail resent to up to three addresses.
  • 10 MB Quota: Store thousands of messages
  • Server-Side Filtering: Block mail and spam before it hits your inbox
  • For fee ad-free opt-out option.

Signup is easy. Just fill out the form and survey, and you are ready to go. An email will be sent to your old address with your password and some helpful information. If you are using a POP account, you can log in right after you configure your client.

HotPOP currently has seven domains to choose from and says they constantly searching for new ones. Memo: Keep looking, guys - most of these are pretty lame.

  • HotPOP.com
  • ToughGuy.net
  • PunkAss.com
  • BonBon.net
  • Phreaker.net
  • SexMagnet.com
  • GameBox.net

I've had a HotPOP account for several months, and it has been completely reliable so far.

SubDimension

SubDimension freemail accounts are for personal use only; commercial use of the service is prohibited. There is a zero-tolerance policy regarding spam of any type.

SubDimension is a collaboration of professional Web developers, content contributors, and users from around the world whose goal is to form a community based on the ideas of its constituency with the website being a collection of tools for its users to communicate and interact - not just on SubDimension, but on the Internet at large.

I signed up for a SubDimension account a few weeks ago and so far it works great. No problems.

E-OmniNet

E-OmniNet offers free email accounts supporting POP servers, folders, and attachments. You can send and check email anywhere using a browser.

E-OmniNet is based in the Far East. They have very fast servers, and this is a high quality service. They also have SMTP support for sending mail (you have to authenticate by checking you inbox first).

I've had an E-OmniNet account for about six months, and it has been entirely reliable.

GMX

GMX is a German-based free email service, and, like most things technical and German, it is very well done.

You can get free POP3 and webmail access (GMX FreeMail Classic) with 10 MB of server storage space and anti-spam protection.

Features:

  • 2 email addresses within an account
  • 10 MB mailbox storage capacity
  • POP3/SMTP (SMTP after POP)
  • Attachments to 5 MB
  • 30 days retention time for your emails

If you don't speak German, you will find the following free Web translation services extremely helpful for the signup procedure:

I do know some German, but I still found these a great help.

I just signed up this week, and this looks like a good email service that's well worth the trouble.

ZapZone

The ZapZone Web-based email service allows you to pick from a wide variety of available domain names - or make up one of your own.

You can check your mail at your own domain's Web page or sign up for free POP3 if you agree to have one advertisement per month sent to your email address. Seems fair to me.

I just signed up, so can't report on reliability yet.

FreyasLand

FreyasLand is another service of Zapzone, but with a less complex signup procedure.

I signed up here, too, but no reliability report yet.

HowlerMonkey

HowlerMonkey is a bit different in that you are required to provide your valid home address and wait for HowlerMonkey to send you your login and password info by snail mail. This is an anti-spam strategy, and I suspect it works well. I've never received any spam I can recall from the howlermonkey domain.

Both POP3 and outgoing SMTP services are offered (POP before SMTP authentication) and you get 3 MB of disk space for storing messages. The service places a text ad on the bottom of every message passing through the system. If it's interesting, read it, there is usually a link in it to click on if you want to visit a Web page to learn more. No interest? Drive on. Beats paying bills.

There is a limit of 10 recipients per email.

HowlerMonkey spam policy:

"We AGRESSIVELY fight spam, and will do anything in our power to make a spammer's life unhappy. if you are looking for someone to help you to spam, you best look someplace else, we crave your gonads as a neck tie. You are a parasite, and a public nuisance, and usually refuse to pay the fees of a "legitimate' mass mailing firm."

SoftHome

SoftHome is a dedicated email service. I've had an account with them for several years. There is also an upgraded for-fee professional service available.


Be sure to read Free POP3 Email Update published on May 13.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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