Definition

e-mail (electronic mail or email)

E-mail (electronic mail) is the exchange of computer-stored messages by telecommunication. (Some publications spell it email; we prefer the currently more established spelling of e-mail.) E-mail messages are usually encoded in ASCII text. However, you can also send non-text files, such as graphic images and sound files, as attachments sent in binary streams. E-mail was one of the first uses of the Internet and is still the most popular use. A large percentage of the total traffic over the Internet is e-mail. E-mail can also be exchanged between online service provider users and in networks other than the Internet, both public and private.

E-mail can be distributed to lists of people as well as to individuals. A shared distribution list can be managed by using an e-mail reflector. Some mailing lists allow you to subscribe by sending a request to the mailing list administrator. A mailing list that is administered automatically is called a list server.

E-mail is one of the protocols included with the Transport Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite of protocols. A popular protocol for sending e-mail is Simple Mail Transfer Protocol and a popular protocol for receiving it is POP3. Both Netscape and Microsoft include an e-mail utility with their Web browsers.

This was last updated in September 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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