Once upon a time there were hundreds, if not thousands, of free email account service providers – everyone wanted a bite of the Internet pie, as it were. However, due to fierce competition and lack on continuous revenue supply (after all, how much money can be made from giving something free), most services faded into oblivion. This page has some of the most popular email providers that are still around and doing great.
Please understand that most of these free services are supported by ads. That is, text or banner (image) advertisements will be displayed once you log in at your account. In fact, services like Gmail will show ads based on the contents of the email message! However, most free services also have a paid version which is ad free and comes with additional features such as larger storage space.
Hotmail, now called Windows Live Hotmail, is one of the first free email service providers. It was started by two young entrepreneurs in 1996 and bought over by Microsoft in 1997 for an estimated $400 million. At the time of writing, Hotmail has the largest subscriber base – 364 million users.
Yahoo! Mail has been very popular with web users since its launch in 1997. Being part of the Yahoo! network helped the service gather millions of subscribers very quickly. Over the years, the company has put in a lot of efforts in making their webmail interface easy to use and intuitive.
Gmail is a relatively new free email service which has garnered millions of users since its launch in April 2004. Apart from the fact that it’s from Google, the world’s best web search engine, there are many reasons why this service has been so successful in such a short time. When it was unveiled, Google provided 1GB storage space on all free Gmail email accounts. This was almost 20 times that of the competition and created quite a stir on the web. Also, new accounts could only be created through special invites and this put it slightly out-of-reach of the common man! This created quite a stir on the web and added a sense of mystique. Additionally, very soon after launch, tons of free features like free POP3 access were introduced and the features list just kept on growing. At the time of writing, Gmail has overtaken Yahoo! Mail and is the second most popular email service.
AOL Mail was once very popular in the United States. However, somewhere along the way the company lost ground to the three big players – Hotmail, Yahoo! and Google. Personally, I feel AOL email service is still very good, easy-to-use and with excellent features.
Mail.com in its present form was launched quite recently in 2007. It is a superb service with some great features like simple account creation process and a neat tab-based interface.
RediffMail is an Indian service which held the bull by the horns in the race for providing the largest space for free email accounts – they upgraded the storage to 1GB when Gmail was launched. However, over the years, it seems RediffMail has not been able to get new subscribers at the same rate as the competition.
In 2008, Microsoft made a move to buy Yahoo! for more than $40 billion. Jerry Yang, the co-founder, quickly rejected the offer stating that it "substantially undervalues" Yahoo! and is not in the interest of its shareholders. As of 2014, the company's revenue was down to $5 billion. [more...]