What is Email? – A Definition from TechTarget.com

What is electronic mail (piece of email)?

Email (piece of email) is the alternate of computer-stored messages from one consumer to a number of recipients by way of the web. Emails are a quick, cheap and accessible approach to talk for enterprise or private use. Users can ship emails from wherever so long as they’ve an web connection, which is sometimes offered by an internet service provider.

Email is exchanged throughout laptop networks, primarily the web, however it will also be exchanged between each private and non-private networks, corresponding to a neighborhood space community. Email will be distributed to lists of individuals in addition to to people. A shared distribution list will be managed utilizing an electronic mail reflector. Some mailing lists allow customers to subscribe by sending a request to the mailing checklist administrator. A mailing checklist that is administered robotically is referred to as a list server.

The TCP/IP suite of protocols supplies a versatile electronic mail system that is constructed on primary protocols, together with Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) for sending mail, and Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) for receiving mail. Alternatively, the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) can be utilized for receiving mail, because it allows entry to electronic mail from any system, wherever. With POP3, the e-mail message is downloaded from the e-mail service and saved on the requesting system and may solely be accessed utilizing the identical system.

Email messages are often encoded in American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) format. However, customers may also ship non-text information — corresponding to graphic photographs and sound information — as file attachments. Email was one of many first actions carried out over the web and is nonetheless the preferred use. A giant proportion of the overall site visitors over the web is electronic mail.

Differences between electronic mail and webmail

Today, the time period electronic mail is typically used to incorporate each browser-based piece of email, corresponding to Gmail and AOL Mail, and non-browser-based piece of email accessed via an electronic mail shopper corresponding to Microsoft Outlook for Office 365. However, previously, electronic mail was outlined as a non-browser program that required a devoted electronic mail server with the shopper software program put in on the pc.

The benefits of utilizing non-browser electronic mail embrace simpler integration with enterprise software program platforms, enhanced safety and lack of ads. However, to ensure that the e-mail to be accessed, it requires an electronic mail shopper be put in straight onto the pc. Although many electronic mail shoppers are free, others can be found for a minimal cost.

The greatest benefit of webmail is that it is free to make use of, will be accessed from wherever and is hosted within the cloud, which robotically synchronizes the e-mail to all gadgets, together with desktop computer systems, tablets or smartphones.

The principal elements of an electronic mail message

A mail message transfer agent is software program that transfers emails between the computer systems of a sender and a recipient. No two electronic mail addresses will be similar, as every full tackle have to be distinctive.

Typically, an electronic mail message consists of two principal elements: header and physique.


Each electronic mail message comes with a header that is structured into varied fields. These fields comprise vital info relating to the sender and the recipient(s). However, the content material of the e-mail header varies, relying on the e-mail system getting used.

Typically, an electronic mail header comprises the next info:

  • Subject. This supplies a abstract of the message matter and is displayed in a separate line above the message physique. For instance, a topic line would possibly say “Company mission assertion” or “Employee Stock Purchase Plan.”
  • Sender (From). This discipline is the sender’s electronic mail tackle. A show identify will also be proven as a substitute if it is related to the e-mail tackle. Most electronic mail shoppers fill out this discipline robotically.
  • Date and time obtained (On). This discipline reveals the native time and date when the message was composed. It’s a compulsory header discipline that is stuffed robotically by most electronic mail shoppers.
  • Reply-to. If a consumer clicks on the Reply button, this discipline robotically populates the message with the sender’s electronic mail tackle, which now turns into the “recipient.”
  • Recipient (To). This discipline reveals the primary and final identify of the e-mail recipient, as configured by the sender.
  • Recipient electronic mail tackle. This is the e-mail tackle of the recipient or the place the message was despatched.
  • Carbon copy (CC). The carbon copy discipline contains the e-mail addresses of the individuals who must obtain the e-mail however aren’t anticipated to answer. When an individual presses Reply All, the entire CC addresses obtain the response.
  • Blind carbon copy (BCC). If a sender does not need their recipient to search out out who else obtained the e-mail, they might use the BCC discipline to enter these addresses. The addresses within the BCC checklist do not obtain responses when somebody presses Reply All.
  • Attachments. This discipline comprises any information which can be connected to the message.


This is the content material of the e-mail. It might comprise something the consumer needs to ship, together with textual content, movies or file attachments. Depending on the e-mail shopper used, the e-mail physique will be formatted in both plain textual content or HTML. While plain textual content messages cannot comprise particular formatting or multimedia parts, HTML emails allow particular formatting and inclusion of multimedia choices throughout the physique of the message. The message physique can also embrace signatures or robotically generated textual content that the sender’s electronic mail system inserts.

Uses of electronic mail

The following are the commonest use circumstances for electronic mail:

  • Individual or group communications. Email is a helpful approach to talk with people or small teams of associates or colleagues. It allows customers to simply ship and obtain paperwork, photographs, hyperlinks and different information. It additionally offers customers the pliability to speak with others on their very own schedule.
  • Notifications, reminders and follow-ups. Individuals, small teams or organizations can ship follow-up emails after appointments, conferences or interviews, or to remind members of approaching occasions, due dates and time-sensitive actions. Calendars with the flexibility so as to add appointments and occasions are built-in into most electronic mail platforms. These options assist customers with time administration by visualizing the fastened period of time they’ve in a day. This allows customers to prioritize their selections and time.
  • Conveying info to a big group of individuals. Companies can use electronic mail to convey info to a lot of workers, prospects and potential prospects. Email is regularly used for newsletters, the place mailing checklist subscribers are despatched particular, promoted content material from an organization and direct email marketing campaigns, the place an commercial or promotion is despatched to a focused group of shoppers.
  • Turning leads into paying prospects. Email will also be used to make a possible sale right into a accomplished buy. For instance, an organization might create an automatic electronic mail that is despatched to on-line consumers who hold gadgets of their purchasing cart for a selected period of time. The electronic mail might remind the shopper that they’ve merchandise sitting of their cart and encourage them to finish the acquisition earlier than the gadgets run out of inventory.
  • Reviews and surveys. Follow-up emails asking prospects to submit a assessment after making a purchase order might embrace a survey asking them to assessment the standard of service or the product they’ve not too long ago obtained.

Types of B2B emails

Business-to-business (B2B) electronic mail advertising and marketing is utilized by companies which can be making an attempt to facilitate the alternate of knowledge, services or products between their group and others. It differs from business-to-consumer (B2C) electronic mail advertising and marketing as a result of it focuses on relaying the logic and reasoning behind a selected buy choice in relation to a enterprise’s particular wants, relatively than interesting to the feelings of shoppers to persuade them to purchase a product. Some several types of B2B emails embrace the next:

  • Welcome emails are despatched to potential consumers after they subscribe to a enterprise’s opt-in actions, corresponding to a mailing checklist, weblog or webinar. They typically comprise extra info that is helpful to the brand new subscriber. Sending a collection of welcome emails might help the enterprise set up a relationship with the client and enhance subscriber loyalty.
  • Promotional emails provide some type of deal to consumers, corresponding to a proportion off the acquisition value, a free month of service, or lowered or omitted charges for managed companies. This is the commonest kind of B2B electronic mail.
  • Lead-nurturing emails are used to coach potential consumers on the choices and companies accessible in an try to make any potential sale right into a accomplished buy. Lead-nurturing emails are also referred to as set off campaigns, since they’re initiated by a possible purchaser taking an preliminary motion, corresponding to downloading a free pattern or clicking hyperlinks on a promotional electronic mail. Lead-nurturing emails must be quick and targeted. They ought to use behavioral knowledge that has been gathered in regards to the result in goal the content material and proceed engagement with the potential purchaser over time.
  • Newsletter emails are routinely despatched to all mailing checklist subscribers, both day by day, weekly or month-to-month. They comprise chosen content material that the corporate has not too long ago revealed. These emails present companies with the chance to convey vital info to their clientele via a single supply. Newsletters might incorporate headlines or captions of industry-related information with hyperlinks to the total articles, occasion invites, firm weblog posts and content material gives.
  • Onboarding emails — also referred to as post-sale emails — are sometimes used to strengthen customer loyalty. These emails can be utilized to familiarize consumers with the offered companies or educate them on tips on how to use their newly bought merchandise. These emails typically embrace recommendation on tips on how to use and handle the brand new services or products. Onboarding emails might help shoppers simplify consumer adoption when confronted with large-scale service deployments.

Advantages of electronic mail

Email is a quick, dependable and moveable method of speaking with others. The following are some frequent advantages of utilizing electronic mail for each private {and professional} functions:

  • Cost-effectiveness. There are varied free electronic mail companies accessible to people and organizations. Once a consumer is on-line, there are not any extra prices for the service.
  • Flexibility. Email supplies customers with a nonurgent communication course of that permits them to ship a response when it is handy for them. This additionally encourages customers to speak no matter their totally different schedules or time zones.
  • Easy entry. If the consumer has entry to the web, then electronic mail will be accessed from wherever at any time.
  • Speed and ease. Emails are fast and simple to compose, with info and contacts available. They will also be exchanged rapidly with minimal lag time.
  • Mass supply. Email makes it potential and simple to ship one message to giant teams of individuals.
  • Message filtering. Email allows customers to filter and categorize their messages. This can stop the visibility of undesirable emails, corresponding to spam and unsolicited mail, whereas additionally making it simpler to search out particular messages once they’re wanted.
  • Message storage and retrieval. Email exchanges will be saved and searched for simple retrieval. This allows customers to maintain vital conversations, confirmations or directions of their data and rapidly retrieve them if obligatory.
Seven benefits of utilizing electronic mail

Examples of electronic mail assaults

Email is the commonest vector for cyber attacks. Methods embrace spamming, phishing, spoofing, spear-phishing, enterprise electronic mail compromise and ransomware. According to an inventory of cybersecurity threats compiled by TechJury, about 91% of cyber assaults launch with a phishing electronic mail.

Graphic illustration of email spoofing

The following are some frequent strategies of utilizing electronic mail to conduct cyber assaults:

  • Spamming. Email spam, also referred to as junk electronic mail, is unsolicited bulk messages despatched via electronic mail. The use of spam has been rising in reputation for the reason that early Nineteen Nineties and is an issue confronted by most electronic mail customers. Recipients of spam typically have had their electronic mail addresses obtained by spambots, that are automated applications that crawl the web searching for electronic mail addresses. Spammers use spambots to create electronic mail distribution lists. A spammer sometimes sends an electronic mail to tens of millions of electronic mail addresses, with the expectation that solely a small quantity will reply or work together with the message.
  • Phishing. This is a type of fraud by which an attacker masquerades as a good entity or individual in electronic mail or different communication channels. The attacker makes use of phishing emails to distribute malicious hyperlinks or attachments that may carry out a wide range of capabilities, together with extracting login credentials or account info from victims.
  • Spoofing. Email spoofing is the forgery of an electronic mail header in order that the message seems to have originated from somebody or someplace aside from the precise supply. Email spoofing is a preferred tactic utilized in phishing and spam campaigns as a result of individuals are extra more likely to open an electronic mail once they suppose it has been despatched by a official or acquainted supply. The objective of electronic mail spoofing is to get recipients to open, and probably even reply to, a solicitation.
  • Spear phishing. Spear-phishing assaults goal a selected group or particular person, searching for unauthorized entry to delicate info. Spear-phishing makes an attempt aren’t sometimes initiated by random hackers however usually tend to be performed by perpetrators out for monetary acquire, commerce secrets and techniques or navy info.
  • Business electronic mail compromise (BEC). A BEC is an exploit by which the attacker beneficial properties entry to a company electronic mail account and spoofs the proprietor’s id to defraud the corporate or its workers, prospects or companions of cash. In some circumstances, an attacker merely creates an account with an electronic mail tackle that is much like one on the company community. A BEC is additionally known as a man-in-the-email rip-off.
  • Ransomware. Ransomware is a subset of malware by which the information on a sufferer’s laptop is locked, sometimes by encryption, and fee is demanded earlier than the ransomed knowledge is decrypted and entry is returned to the sufferer. The motive for ransomware assaults is almost all the time financial, and in contrast to different sorts of assaults, the sufferer is often notified that an exploit has occurred and is given directions for tips on how to get well from the assault. Payment is typically demanded in a digital foreign money — corresponding to bitcoin — in order that the cybercriminal’s id is not recognized.

Email safety

Email is designed to be an open and accessible platform that permits customers to speak with one another and with individuals or teams inside a corporation. As a outcome, it is not inherently safe, and electronic mail safety is important. Email security describes the assorted strategies that people, organizations and repair suppliers can use to guard delicate info saved in electronic mail communications and accounts from unauthorized entry, loss or destruction.

Organizations ought to implement the next finest practices to make sure correct electronic mail safety:

Password rotations. Individuals can proactively shield their accounts by creating strong passwords and altering them regularly.

Spam filters. Users must also create spam filters and folders to separate doubtlessly malicious emails and unsolicited mail, in addition to set up and run antivirus and antimalware software program on their computer systems. Service suppliers ought to set up firewalls and spam-filtering software program apps to guard customers from unrecognized, malicious or untrustworthy messages.

Secure electronic mail gateway. Organizations can shield themselves from threats by setting up an email security gateway. Email gateways course of and scan all obtained emails to stop assaults from reaching their supposed recipients. A multilayered gateway is one of the best strategy, since assaults have gotten more and more extra sophisticated and complicated. Training workers on tips on how to correctly use electronic mail and tips on how to distinguish malicious messages may also assist customers keep away from threatening mail that the gateway does not catch.

Automated electronic mail encryption. Automated electronic mail encryption software program can be utilized to scan all outgoing messages for doubtlessly delicate info. If the fabric is thought-about delicate, then the content material must be robotically encrypted earlier than it is despatched to the supposed recipient. This course of prevents attackers from having access to this info, even when they intercept it. Only recipients with permission to view the e-mail can see the decrypted content material.

Access management requirements. Email service suppliers may also enhance electronic mail safety by establishing sturdy password and access control requirements and mechanisms.

Digital signatures and encryption. In addition to organizations utilizing automated encryption software program, suppliers must also use encryption and digital signatures to guard emails in transit and in customers’ inboxes.

Popular electronic mail websites

Some examples of common, free electronic mail web sites embrace the next:

  • Gmail is a free electronic mail service offered by Google. Gmail additionally gives paid plans for enterprise customers that embrace further storage, superior options and assist choices. According to Litmus in its “July 2022 Email Client Market Share” replace, as of April 2022, Gmail holds 29.5% of the e-mail shopper market share.
  • Microsoft Outlook is accessible as a part of the Microsoft Office suite and gives each free and paid variations. Microsoft Outlook works throughout a number of working programs and gadgets and supplies options corresponding to deleted electronic mail restoration and automated electronic mail group.
  • Yahoo Mail was launched in 1997 and is one of many oldest webmail shoppers accessible. Yahoo Mail is helpful for private emails and is available in a cell app model.
  • AOL Mail was probably the most common electronic mail companies previously and is now part of Verizon Communications. It gives a vast mailbox dimension and lets customers hyperlink their AOL Mail to different electronic mail accounts, corresponding to Outlook and Gmail.
  • Zoho Mail was launched in 2008 and is a part of the Zoho Office Suite. This electronic mail shopper supplies nice safety and reasonably priced plans for each private and enterprise use. According to a survey performed by Zoho, it had 15 million customers worldwide in 2020.
  • ProtonMail gives enhanced safety and end-to-end encryption. It additionally supplies options together with Proton Calendar and Proton Drive.
  • iCloud Mail is a free electronic mail tackle for Apple customers and comes preinstalled on Apple gadgets. As lengthy as a consumer has an Apple account, they will connect with iCloud mail utilizing their Gmail, Yahoo Mail or AOL electronic mail tackle. ICloud Mail gives every account 5 GB of cloud storage and extra area will be bought.

Origin of electronic mail

Scientists at MIT developed a program referred to as Mailbox that enabled the alternate of messages between time-sharing computer systems inside one lab. In 1971, Raymond Samuel Tomlinson, a developer at Bolt, Beranek and Newman — now Raytheon BBN Technologies — executed the primary electronic mail program on the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), the precursor to the web. Tomlinson designed a messaging program to be used on the PDP-10 laptop consisting of two particular person applications, SNDMSG for sending mail and READMAIL for retrieving mail.

Email is the commonest level of entry for cybercriminals right into a community. Learn in regards to the top 3 email security threats and how to defend against them.


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