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Having an email account away from home can be important. So can hiding your true identity under certain circumstances. Whatever, webmail is here to stay. Following is a run-down on the major webmail engines and services.

The Engines


Too little known - it runs the ZapZone Network, where we have our own webmail service. See below.

The one advantage to using this webmail service is the handle you can get - no squigglies or numbers normally needed, as it's quite exclusive. You can normally get your own name or the exact pseudonym you choose, which is a lot classier.


Probably the best. Powers the inimicable but now inaccessible RocketMail as well as the continually updated Yahoo! This one has everything, and in addition is sensible - meaning lean and mean and fast.

Runs in frames as almost all of them do, and uses the thin left marginal frame for navigation, and you can expand your folder tree to see and access all your folders at a single click. Dumping your trash is a single click too, which is important.

RocketMail doesn't do downloads, but Yahoo! does. RocketMail, on the other hand, is not as beleaguered by visitors as Yahoo! and is almost always faster by far than the rest of the pack.


From Software.com. Powers Excite's new service. Very interesting. This is a radically different UI, and Excite is really working hard, chat rooms with THOUSANDS of chatters online at all times, and a complete 'community' concept and feeling.

Definitely worth taking a second look at. Excite didn't handle POP during the switch but now they do. Which should make them one of the most capable webmail servers on the planet.


Developed at and owned by Carnegie-Mellon University. Should be a great pedigree, and it is very widespread, but actually this engine is not that good. Navigating around the folders is a pain. In general, it's far more difficult to get anywhere and get it done than with other engines.

Local implementations of this engine can differ greatly, so check out each one and take notes and compare.

MSN Hotmail

Ah... Unique, and completely deplorable. If there is one webmail service where everyone has an account it's Hotmail - first stop for newbies world wide. But oh so aggravating and with a UI about as consistent as an MS system applet.

The one overpowering reason to use a Hotmail account is that everyone else uses one. Internal email never leaves the building and therefore reaches its destination faster. But don't count on your letters being secure. Microsoft has done a lot to improve this leaky webmail service in the past few months, and several features are rather good, as the SSL portal, but our advice is to play it cool for a while and see if anyone else reports being raided by hackers before putting your trust in it.

Microsoft is a firm believer in the multimedia email letter - gobs of useless junk which overburden the already shaky SMTP network. But as long as the stuff never leaves their servers and is only stored at their site - who cares? It can make a pretty letter or two - all that's missing is the olfactory element, and Redmond is already working on it.

The Services


Lycos engine. Great when it's not freezing up. Angelfire offers home pages too.


Lycos engine. Heavy graphics. Avoid it for another Lycos with a smarter staff.


It's a sexy new green and black interface, and now has POP too - meaning it now has the whole ball of wax. The interface is very intuitive with a very modern feel to help you along.


Lycos engine. Rather shabby interface. Offers home pages. But no longer taking any new applicants.


One of the first. Microsoft bought them out recently, and people's fears were somewhat unfounded - MS has not yet turned Hotmail into a MS application. It's also one of the most frequent sources of spam, and one of the most hacked into. The security leaks are infamous. A quick search of public domain hacks into Hotmail should yield at least half a dozen utilities which can allow you to access any Hotmail account at all. Microsoft is looking into this and they have improved matters somewhat in recent months, yet when 50,000,000 accounts with their passwords were exposed all at once (yes you read that right) you have to wonder if the best intentions are simply not good enough. Use a Hotmail account to communicate with the clueless; use something else for things that are important.


Thanks but no thanks. From the company that powers and/or owns Angelfire, Eudora, HotBot, MailCity, theglobe, and ZDNet, a weak offering. Avoid it.


Lycos engine. The Lycos email engine can be good - if it's implemented properly. Currently MailCity has the most features of any email site out there - and their downloads do include the headers, good for fighting spam.


Too much Java. Singular out there on the net. Takes ages to load pages - and of course the last thing loaded is your email letter itself. NET@DDRESS, or USA.NET, is famous for its hard line on spam - which makes you wonder why so much junk gets through these days again, like never before. Put this together with the aggravating interface and ask yourself - is it worth it? We say 'no'.


Netscape is putting a lot of money on the line with this one. Use the URL above to bypass the heavy graphics.

Radsoft Mail

Oh by far the best! It's our very own offering, running the Commtouch engine, and it's fast. If you sign up now, you can probably get your own name too, without the convolutions you've come to expect. So click on the link here and get cracking!


Four11 engine. Undoubtedly the best. It's obvious that the people who wrote this system were intelligent. And in a major way. Unfortunately RocketMail is no longer accepting new accounts. All new accounts get sent to Yahoo, which uses a similar system but which is burdened by greater bandwidth and is less responsive as a result. RocketMail does not allow downloads, but you can live without that. What they do have is hardware that almost never fails and an email system surpassed by none. It's so intelligent - using a minimum of graphics - pages load fast - and you get your work done in a fraction of the time spent at another other site. RocketMail is gratifying - all email sites should be this way. Has now been swallowed up by Yahoo! but still reigns supreme.


Four11 engine. In many respects, second best. The same system (Four11) as in use at Rocket, all applications for new accounts at Rocket are transferred here. Yahoo's main problem is that they are the most hit on site on the net. They simply cannot keep up the bandwidth all the time.


Remember - this is ZD, collectively the biggest bunch of morons on the net outside the programming community - and they're still and all experts at exploiting people, so think twice about clicking that link. You'll get tonnes of humungoid (approx. 20KB each) SPAM letters sent to your mailbox on a daily basis - and they won't let you stop subscribing to the junk either! 'Nuff said - go with another service and keep your IQ healthy.

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