Miscellaneous Ramblings

9 Free POP3 Email Services and 2 Low Cost Ones

Charles Moore - 2003.03.10 - Tip Jar

There have been several developments since we last reviewed the free POP3 email scene last fall. While some free email services have hung in for years, others last only a short time, and some services change from free to fee.

There are dozens of free email services on the Internet. 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 with Internet access.

However, for regular home or office purposes, POP3 email is more convenient, especially if you are among the three-quarters plus proportion of Internet users who don't have broadband service.

POP3 email is the type of email account you access with client software like Eudora, the OS X Mail app, Netscape Mail, or a wide selection of others. For a roundup of what's available in POP3 email clients for the Mac, see Moore's Omnibus Mac Email Client Roundup.

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 actually sending and downloading messages, which immensely cuts down 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.

Free POP3 email services include:

MacMail

http://www.macmail.com

Apple has discontinued their erstwhile free mac.com email service, but you can still have a free POP3 email account with "mac" in it: xxxx@macmail.com.

Alex Summersby of UK-based MacMail.com says:

"Thought your readers might like to know about another alternative to Apple's .Mac if all you need is a Mac-friendly email service that gives you an address that proclaims your allegiances: MacMail.com.

"MacMail offers free-of-charge POP3 email accounts which you can access via a Web browser or your preferred email client software. It's based in the UK but offers a worldwide service. I should mention also that the system is not based on an off-the-shelf engine but has been custom-programmed to deliver a range of features that most other such services won't match, including:

  • customizable filters and user-defined spam blocking
  • online mail management, custom folders and Address Book
  • powerful search functions"

I've had a MacMail account for about six months, and it's proved a good service - fast and reliable. The signup procedure was painless, and configuration a breeze. The downside is that there is no SMTP support, so you have to use your ISP's outgoing email server.

I'm an almost total POP3 user, and MacMail works fine with Eudora, but the MacMail webmail interface is about as slick as I've seen - clean, intuitive, and fast, and it's nice to have as a backup.

As with all webmail services, you can access your MacMail account, send and receive messages and attachments, from any computer, anywhere in the world, as long as it has a working connection to the Internet and browser software. All you need is your MacMail User name and password.

MacMail basic services are free of charge. Additional MacMail services or "Premium Services" cost a small monthly fee. You get 5 MB total server space with the free service, and if you need more you can increase this by subscribing to the MacMail Premium Services.

eOrders

http://email.eorders.com/

Another new free POP3 email service that's made its debut since our last report is eOrders, which is oriented toward the food service and restaurant industry, but it's open to other users as well.

Domains available with the eOrders service include: (yourname)@HotmailSauce.com, PizzaHangout.com, PizzaMailbox.com, MealBox.com, and several others. SMTP is supported for outgoing messages.

eOrders offers both POP3 and web-based access, 5 MB of storage space, The Web based service features spam filtering and virus protection, a built-in spell checker, plus standard features such as support for signatures and an address book.

Web Based Email Features:

  • Multiple attachment support
  • Spell Checker & Custom Dictionary
  • Supports any web browser & charset
  • Private Address Book (Import Features)
  • Folder management
  • Full print support
  • Cc and Bcc support
  • Drafts & Signatures support

For restaurateurs, eOrders provides a service that allows your customers to order online from your menu - with a website for your restaurant with its own address on the Internet. When a customer submits an order from your website it arrives at your restaurant's fax machine within 1-2 minutes. No special equipment needed, just a fax machine.

Signup is quick and easy, and the service has proved fast and reliable so far in my tests.

MyRealBox

http://www.myrealbox.com

I've been using MyRealBox for several years, and except for a few timeouts (Novell offers this service as a product testbed, and warns that this will happen from time to time) it has proved quite dependable and fast. MyRealBox also offers SMTP support for outgoing mail.

MyRealBox (MRB) does not allow advertising and supports any standard based email client. Novell hosts this service to showcase its NIMS product and 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. However, MyRealBox will not accept any Yahoo! Groups email messages.

MyRealBox offers free email with 10 MB of storage space and both POP3 and IMAP-based access. Outgoing SMTP is also available, with a maximum of 15 recipients per outgoing email sent through the MyRealBox system. You can set up the service so that it automatically forwards all email to an external email account. Note that the service is ad-free, since it is in permanent beta test (see below), but it comes with certain restrictions. For example, MyRealBox automatically refuses to accept any Yahoo! Groups email messages.

Not much else to say about this one. It works well, but there is that occasional downtime. MyRealBox has been around for a while and is likely to stick around.

HotPOP

http://www.hotpop.com/

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.

There is also Web access to your HotPOP account. There is a limit of 500 KB per message, and a maximum of 1,000 incoming email messages per day.

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 well over a year now, and I've been impressed with the service. Once in a while the server is a bit sluggish about answering, but it always comes up, There is SMTP support for outgoing mail, which requires checking your inbox before sending, and I've found that aspect to be a bit cranky at times, requiring two or three checks before the SMTP server will respond.

HotPOP offers a combined POP3/forwarding and web-based email service. At the free level, HotPOP includes 10 MB of storage for email messages, and the ability to specify up to 3 destination addresses to forward messages to.

Another one that has proved to have staying power, and it's been reliable.

subDimension

http://www.subdimension.com/freemail

subDimension supports IMAP, POP3, and Web email. subDimension freemail accounts are for personal use only; commercial use is prohibited, and there is a zero-tolerance policy regarding spam of any type. No outgoing SMTP service is provided - you will have to use your ISP's SMTP server or the subDimension Web interface to send mail.

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 last spring. Unfortunately there have been some extended service outages, but it seems to be working again, although server response can still be spotty. [Editor's note: We were unable to connect to their server today to verify that the above link works.]

GMX

http://www.gmx.net/

This is a German 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, 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
  • directory
  • anti-spam protection
  • numerous files and filter functions

GMX is an excellent email service - fast and reliable. Unfortunately, GMX has recently restricted new user signups to a handful of German-speaking countries in Europe. :-(

SoftHome

http://www.softhome.net/

SoftHome is a dedicated email service. I've had an account with them for about five years. This one works well. There is also an upgraded for-fee professional service available.

SoftHome pledges: "You'll get a free email address you can use for the rest of your life. It won't go away when you change jobs; it won't go away when you graduate; it won't go away when you change Internet Service Providers. No matter what happens in your life, your family and friends will always be able to reach you at your SoftHome address."

Let's hope they are more sincere about this than Apple was.

Note that SoftHome recently downgraded their free Personal Email accounts from 15 MB and 500 messages to 6 MB and 150 messages. Likewise, the transfer limit was decreased from 45 MB/month to 10 MB/month. Since the downgrade, I've found that the server is also sometimes slow to respond when checking mail. Messages stored in the system for a period of time may also expire and be deleted. Messages can be sent via SoftHome's SMTP service to a maximum of 10 recipients per email. Web access is also available.

Inbox.lv

http://www.inbox.lv

Inbox.lv is the largest provider of free Web-based email in Latvia and also supports POP3 access with 8 MB of storage space. The service includes Kapersky antivirus scanning, which scans all incoming and outgoing emails. There is a limit of 1 MB of attachments per message.

If you do not sign in to your @inbox.lv account for 60 days, or if you do not sign-in within the first 10 days, your account will be marked "inactive." Stored email and addresses will be deleted, and inbound mail will be refused. If your account stays "inactive" for over a period of 90 days, it may be permanently deleted.

Inbox.lv can be viewed in a variety of languages. You can make the language of an Inbox.lv session match the language of the Sign In page used to begin that session. You currently have your choice of English, Latvian, and Russian.

I've been using Inbox.lv for about a year now, and while I've occasionally had trouble getting the server to answer (crowded phone lines between North America and Latvia?), I've found it generally good. No SMTP support, though. You have to send mail through your ISP's server.

HowlerMonkey

http://www.howlermonkey.net/

This one 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. Only 10 recipients per email.

HowlerMonkey spam policy: "We aggressively 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."


Some other services available at reasonable prices

TheMail.com

http://www.themail.com/

Offers free Webmail, but for 5¢ a day you can add an additional 10 MB of email space and POP3 access, Merge Mail, File Manager, Filters, and an Autoresponder

Features:

  • Autoresponder
  • Address Book
  • Webmail CheckIt! (check and send email right from your desktop)
  • Mail Filters (unlimited filters)
  • Auto Forward (forward your mail)
  • Extra 10 Meg disk space
  • File Manager (store files)
  • Calendar/Reminder Service
  • POP3 access (for use with Outlook, Netscape Mail, etc.)
  • Vacation Messages
  • POP3 retrieval (to get your email from other server(s))
  • WAP access (access your email from your cell phone)
  • Merge Mail (send personalized email to a list)

Select Mail

http://www.everyone.net/selectmail/

Select Mail offers free email with features that Yahoo! and Hotmail charge extra for, plus you can choose your own custom email address (e.g., you@yourchoice.com) as long as you select one special offer (e.g., a $6.95 Video Professor trial).

Features include:

  • Free custom email address
  • Free webmail interface with no annoying advertising
  • Free POP3 and SMTP access that works with Eudora, Netscape, etc.
  • Free 6 MB of storage space with large file attachment support
  • Free SpamShield that filters out junk email
  • Free support

Select Mail says that by selecting just one special offer, you generate enough support for an entire year of ad-free Select Mail. They also claim that Select Mail is more reliable than AOL, Hotmail, or Yahoo! Mail because it's powered by the email experts at Everyone.net, a reputable email service provider incorporated in the State of California.

Regarding the custom domain name, you will be what is known as the domain registrant, the possessor of the domain name. Additional fees apply to transfer your domain name to a different registrar and/or modify your domain name record. Your own custom .com, .net or .org email address. (.biz and .info are available for an additional $9.99.) You can use Select Mail with a domain name that you already own.

To renew your account after the first year, you'll receive a reminder before your anniversary to select another special offer (if available). At that time, you will also have the option to pay for Select Mail ($24.99 a year). Failure to renew either way will result in the loss of your domain name as well as email service interruption. If you would subscribe to Select Mail without fulfilling a special offer, Everyone.net has premium email services starting at $34.99 a year.

Select Mail includes a single email address. Additional email addresses (with 6 MB of storage each) can be purchased in groups of five for $19.99 a year.

You can receive any size file attachment (up to 6 MB) as long as it does not exceed the amount of unused space available. You may upgrade to 25 MB of total storage space and 10 MB file attachment handling for $19.99 a year.

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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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