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Email clients implemented as web applications running on a web server are known as webmail, or web-based email.

With webmail, a user can send and receive email from anywhere, using a web browser, as long as there is an Internet connection. There are several webmail providers, free and commercial, and several Internet service providers offer a webmail client as part of their ISP client, as do web hosting companies.

Although there were some earlier implementations, the first commercial webmail was Webex, which later became EMUmail, which operated from 1995 until it was sold in 2001. EMUmail was also one of the first applications with a free version that included embedded advertising, as well as a commercial version without advertising.

Hotmail and RocketMail both began in 1996, fiercely competing with one another for years. Hotmail is now Outlook.com, a Microsoft product, while Rocketmail was sold to Yahoo! in 1997, and closed to new accounts in 2013.

Other webmail services have filled in the gaps left by these early services, including Google's Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, ProtonMail, StartMail, and Hushmail.

Some webmail providers offer a desktop client using the POP3 protocol along with its webmail client. Using both, however, email messages that are downloaded through the desktop client are then removed from the server, although an option is generally available to leave downloaded mail on the server. Other desktop clients use the IMAP4 protocol, which allows the contents of a mailbox to be consistently displayed both in the webmail inbox and on the desktop. Actions that the user takes relating to the email, either online or on the desktop, will be reflected in the other.

Webmail clients have varying capabilities when it comes to displaying HTML tags in email.

Independent webmail providers are either free or offered through a subscription plan, although some of them offer both options. Some free webmail providers, particularly Gmail, are known to analyze the contents of users' emails for the purpose of targeted advertising. Other privacy concerns have also been raised.

Some independent webmail providers market their services to businesses and individuals who have a concern for privacy, offering features such as encrypted email and other security services. Examples of this type of webmail service are Hushmail, Startmail, and ProtonMail.

Webmail providers and webmail services are the focus of topics in this category.



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