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E-mail

E-mail, which is short for electronic mail, offers virtually instant, one-way communication around the world via computer. It was one of the first methods of person-to-person communication made available through the information superhighway. In the early days of e-mail, simple text messages were sometimes difficult to manage, and adding pictures or documents was possible only if other software was available to make transmission from e-mail to computer possible. Current e-mail software generally provides easy-to-use options for attaching photos, sounds, video clips, complete documents, and Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) code.

Early e-mail access was typically provided by government agencies and universities to employees and special groups of people who needed to communicate with one another quickly and directly. Researchers and scientists were among the first consistent users of e-mail.

E-mail addresses are now available for a fee through commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to anyone who has a home computer and a phone line or other means of Internet access. Users who do not care to contract with an ISP can acquire e-mail addresses through a variety of Internet web sites; well-known examples of free e-mail providers include Hotmail.com, Juno.com, and Yahoo.com. Although there is no direct cost to the user for these addresses, the services come with a non-monetary price. Sites providing such e-mail accounts usually are supported by advertising, and the e-mail accounts are often targets of that advertising.

E-mail vs. Snail Mail

E-mail provides a format for written communication that is different from the traditional postal service in number of ways. Messages can be delivered more rapidly through electronic means than on paper through what has been nicknamed "snail-mail." E-mail is generally less formal than postal mail. Messages are often written quickly and respondents can weave their responses into the original message, replying point-by-point to the writer's questions or comments.

Among the advantages of e-mail are speed and convenience. One advantage to using e-mail is the ability to send the same information to a number of recipients easily and simultaneously, complete with electronic attachments. Sending a copy of a message to interested parties at the same time as the intended recipient can save time by ensuring that everyone knows the details and has a chance to respond as needed.

Electronic mail offers new forms of communication that cross barriers of time and geography. Groups of people with similar interests can join together to share and discuss ideas via e-mail discussion groups. Each group can generate hundreds of messages from hundreds or thousands of users within a day. In some cases, discussion groups are moderated, with all incoming messages going to a single person to be screened before they are posted. This protects the entire list of message recipients from receiving messages that are not relevant to the group's discussions. Other lists are not moderated, allowing any list member to send any message to the entire group.

E-mail vs. Voice Communication

E-mail and telephone contact offer similar benefits in speed of contact. Answering machines and voice mail services provide options for asynchronous communication, similar to e-mail, where the recipient is able to receive messages on a time-delayed basis. With a sophisticated voice mail system, one message can be delivered simultaneously to a number of recipients on the same system, paralleling the ability of e-mail to communicate simultaneous messages and attachments to multiple recipients. This type of telephone delivery system is generally available only in business settings. One advantage of e-mail, however, is that it provides the option of communicating the same message to a number of people while also providing a text version of the message, instead of simply a voice message.

On the other hand, the voice message, whether live or recorded, offers certain advantages, as well. Listening to a voice message can give valuable information as to the emotional state of the speaker. Emotions conveyed through voice contact can clarify the meaning of a message that may be misinterpreted in e-mail format.

In an attempt to provide some emotional content to text-only messages, "emoticons" have been created; many are now widely recognizable. Emoticons consist of several keystrokes used together in a sequence to represent a facial expression. The most common are the use of a colon followed by a right or left parenthesis mark, representing a smiling face, or a frowning one, as in:) or :(respectively. Emoticons have become so popular that some word processing packages include smiling or frowning faces to replace typed in emoticons automatically.

Emoticons can be used to convey certain personal characteristics of a message's author as well. Emoticons can portray glasses, using the numeral 8 followed by a parenthesis mark, or a beard and a wink, made up of a semicolon, a parenthesis mark, and a right-facing angle bracket mark, as in 8) or;)> respectively.

E-mail for Business Use

E-mail has become quite popular for many business uses beyond communication within or between companies. As mentioned earlier, some Internet sites offer free e-mail accounts to attract users to the sites. Many of these are supported by advertising that is targeted toward specific consumer profiles. E-mail lists are also a valuable advertising commodity. They are used much like mailing lists for postal mail, or telephone lists for telemarketing.

For e-mail users who find advertiser-provided information valuable, or at least interesting, these e-mail marketing techniques are not a problem. There are some less scrupulous advertisers who send unsolicited and frequently unwanted messages to large numbers of e-mail accounts. This is a process known as "spamming." E-mail spam is often sent to discussion groups' e-mail lists, especially those that are not moderated. Various ISPs, such as Mindspring/Earthlink, offer their customers spam-filters such as the "Spaminator."

Although e-mail has been fully adopted by business, government, industry, education, and the private sector, concerns about security and privacy still exist. E-mail software and ISPs offer varying levels of security in the e-mail packages they provide. While most providers offer a security level that most personal users find fairly reasonable, there are questions of security in business settings that must be addressed, not only to avoid spam, but to avoid unauthorized access to e-mail messages and accounts. People with significant computer skills can circumvent security systems and illegally access e-mail accounts. There are constant improvements made to security for all types of computer networks, including e-mail, but there will always be hackers who respond to every advance in security with new efforts to break through security measures.

E-mail privacy is not only at risk through illegal activity. In most business settings, there are regulations about who has legal access to e-mail sent or received via company-provided accounts. It may be true that e-mail sent with a company-provided account is not accessible to anyone from outside the company, but each e-mail message may be considered company property and can legally be accessed by the appropriate department within the company. On occasion, corporate employees have been fired for using their company e-mail accounts in ways deemed inappropriate by their employers. Such objectionable use of company e-mail has included illegal betting, sending off-color jokes, forwarding chain letters, and sending pornographic photos.

E-mail accounts and messages may also be vulnerable to legal investigations. In the late 1990s and subsequent years, questions arose concerning e-mail contacts that U.S. President Bill Clinton made during ongoing legal investigations. Those e-mail messages were evaluated based on their content and their relevance to the investigations. Internet service providers were asked to provide information about account holders, who were then placed under investigation themselves.

E-mail provides a rapid and comprehensive method of communicating with others. Its low cost and widespread availability makes it a valuable tool for business and personal use. Advances in software and hardware are expected to help alleviate the privacy and security concerns that limit its use for highly confidential correspondence.

see also Internet; Intranet; World Wide Web.

Shirley Campbell

Internet Resources

Campbell, Todd. "The First E-Mail: Who Sent It and What It Said." PreText Magazine. <http://www.pretext.com/mar98/features/story2.htm>

"E-mail." Webopedia.com. <http://webopedia.com/TERM/e/e_mail.html>

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"E-mail." Computer Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"E-mail." Computer Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/computing/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/e-mail

"E-mail." Computer Sciences. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/computing/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/e-mail

E-Mail

E-MAIL

Electronic messages sent over a network are known as e-mail. Users may send messages to a single recipient or to a group of several recipients anywhere in the world. In many cases, messages are transmitted along high-speed data communications networks in a matter of seconds or minutes. Once a message is received, a user may view it, save it, delete it, or forward it on to other recipients. E-mail programs consist of two main components: the store-and-forward messaging system and the send-and-receive interface, which is what a user sees when working with an e-mail program. The text itself usually is in ASCII format and sent via Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). Advances in technology like Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) allow e-mail users to attach filesincluding graphics, audio files, word processing documents, spreadsheets, and even executable programsto their messages for recipients to open on their machines.

The first e-mail message was sent by Ray Tomlinson in 1971. Tomlinson came up with the idea for e-mail when he was working for Bolt Beranek and Newman, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research and development outfit contracted in 1968 by the U.S. Department of Defense to construct ARPA-net, a network that would allow the government to have messaging capabilities in the event of nuclear war. To create his e-mail program, Tomlinson used a rudimentary file transfer protocol known as CYPNET along with SNDMSG, an electronic messaging system that allowed users of a single machine to leave messages for each other on that machine. He decided to use the @ (pronounced "at") symbol to identify messages that were going to be sent along the network to another machine. When Tomlinson sent his new e-mail program to other ARPAnet users, who loaded it onto their computers, e-mail essentially was born. However, it was not until years later that Tomlinson and his colleagues recognized just how widespread e-mail would become as a communications tool for educational, social, and commercial endeavors.

The Internet, which eventually replaced ARPA-net, had an immeasurable impact on e-mail technology. Although Internet-based e-mail programs emerged in the 1980s, most simply allowed local area network (LAN) users to communicate with one another. It wasn't until the 1990s, when the Internet began to function as a portal between incompatible online services like America Online and Prodigy, that e-mail truly began to evolve into the open communications system it is today. Although measuring the technology's use is difficult, it is clear that many millions of users send many billions of messages every year.

This method of quickly and easily communicating with large numbers of people is not without complications. One major issue for many e-mail users is the increasing amount of unsolicited advertisements, commonly known as spam, they receive. Many companies and individuals purchase huge mailing lists of e-mail addresses from various information sources and send unwanted advertisements to recipients. In some cases these advertisements are legal, and in other cases they are not, but the senders are quite often very difficult to trace. Many proprietary e-mail programs, such as those offered to workers by an employer, include filtering technology that helps to block spam. Users of freely available Internet-based mail services, such as Hotmail and Juno, are more likely to receive spam.

Another problem inherent in an open communication system like e-mail is the ease with which viruses can be spread via e-mail message attachments. Many virus programs are disguised as attached files from colleagues or friends. Once they are unwittingly opened by a recipient, the virus reads the recipient's address book and forwards the virus on to each user in that address book. Because the e-mail looks as though it was sent by the victim of the virus, the likelihood that future recipients will open the disguised virus is quite high.

As e-mail technology has extended its reach across the globe, individuals and businesses have begun to use it for increasingly diverse reasons. A multitude of Web sites now exist that allow individuals to create free personalized greeting cards they can e-mail to family members and friends. Students in online courses are able to e-mail their work to professors, who then offer feedback via e-mail. Online retailers quite often e-mail receipts to customers within seconds of a purchase. These same retailers also may e-mail customers to let them know when their goods are actually shipped, and if a customer has indicated they would like to receive information in the future, they may send e-mail messages regarding upcoming promotions or special deals. Some online travel companies e-mail discounted fares each week to a list of people who have subscribed to such a service. While there is no way to predict how e-mail might be used in the future, new ways in which the technology can be used for educational, social, and commercial endeavors are certain to develop.

FURTHER READING:

"A Brief History of Email." Kirkland, WA: Vicom Technology Ltd., 2001. Available from www.vicomsoft.com.

Campbell, Todd. "The First E-mail Message." PreText. March 1998. Available from www.pretext.com.

"E-mail." In Ecommerce Webopedia. Darien, CT: Inter-net.com, 2001. Available from e-comm.webopedia.com.

"E-mail." In Techencyclopedia. Point Pleasant, PA: Computer Language Co., 2001. Available from www.techweb.com/encyclopedia.

"E-mail or Email." In NetLingo. NetLingo Inc., 2001. Available from www.netlingo.com.

SEE ALSO: ARPAnet; E-mail Marketing; History of the Internet and World Wide Web (WWW); Local Area Network (LAN); MIME and S/MIME

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"E-Mail." Gale Encyclopedia of E-Commerce. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"E-Mail." Gale Encyclopedia of E-Commerce. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/e-mail

"E-Mail." Gale Encyclopedia of E-Commerce. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/e-mail

E-Mail

E-MAIL

Electronic mail, or e-mail, developed as part of the revolution in high-tech communications during the mid 1980s. Although statistics about the number of e-mail users is often difficult to compute, the total number of person-to-person e-mails delivered each day has been estimated at more than ten billion in North America and 16 billion worldwide. Faster and cheaper than traditional mail, this correspondence is commonly sent over office networks, through many national services, and across the internet.

E-mail is less secure than traditional mail, even though federal law protects e-mail from unauthorized tampering and interception. Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA), Pub. L. No. 99-508, 100 Stat. 1848, third parties are forbidden to read private e-mail. However, a loophole in the ECPA that allows employers to read their workers' e-mail has proven especially controversial. It has provoked several lawsuits and has produced legislative and extralegal proposals to increase e-mail privacy.

Congress intended to increase privacy by passing the ECPA. Lawmakers took note of increasingly popular communications devices that were readily susceptible to eavesdropping—cellular telephones, pagers, satellite dishes, and e-mail. The law updated existing federal criminal codes in order to qualify these emerging technologies for constitutional protection under the fourth amendment. In the case of e-mail, Congress gave it most of the protection already accorded by law to traditional mail. Just as postal employees may not divulge information about private mail to third parties, neither may e-mail services. The law provides criminal and civil penalties for violators: In cases of third-party interception, it establishes fines of up to $5,000 and prison sentences of up to six months. In cases of industrial espionage—where privacy is invaded for purposes of commercial advantage, malicious destruction, or private commercial gain—it establishes fines of up to $250,000 and prison sentences of up to one year.

Commentators have noted that cases involving employers reading their employees' e-mails tend to favor the employers, especially where the employer owns the equipment that stores the e-mail. Many companies also provide written policies regarding the ownership of stored e-mail messages, indicating whether the employer considers stored e-mail to be the property of the employer.

E-mail raises additional issues of privacy in the context of communications between an attorney and client. Because communications between attorney and client must remain confidential, questions have arisen about whether sending unencrypted e-mail messages by attorneys to clients could pose ethical problems. In 1999, the american bar association issued its opinion that the mere use of unencrypted messages does not pose ethical problems.

E-mail raises some evidentiary problems as well. Commentators have noted that the origin of some e-mail messages might be difficult to authenticate, while messages might constitute hearsay. Nevertheless, many courts have admitted e-mail messages into evidence. To protect against disclosure of private or sensitive information, some attorneys advise employers and employees to exercise caution with e-mail, as it can be subpoenaed. Some experts have advised users to delete their e-mail regularly, and even to avoid saving it in the first place. Still others advocate the use of encryption software, which scrambles messages and makes them unreadable without a digital password.

further readings

"Harris, Micalyn S. 2002. "Is Email Privacy an Oxymoron? Meeting the Challenge of Formulating a Company Email Policy." Saint John's Journal of Legal Commentary 553.

"Joseph, Gregory P. 2003. "Internet and Email Evidence." ALI-ABA Course of Study.

Pearlstein, Mark W. and Jonathan D. Twombly. 2002. "Cell Phones, Email, and Confidential Communications: Protecting Your Client's Confidences." Boston Bar Journal 20.

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"E-Mail." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"E-Mail." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/e-mail

"E-Mail." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/e-mail

E-MAIL

E-MAIL. Forms: e-mail, E-mail, email, Email; full form electronic mail. The transmission of a message by electronic digital code; a message sent in this way: to receive news by e-mail; to get an e-mail message; to send someone an e-mail. Such messages may be brief notes, communications like traditional letters, or electronic files. Some systems are limited to one computer network, others have gateways to further systems, and others still (the majority) use the full range of the INTERNET. E-mail began in the US in 1964, and it is estimated that currently some 25m users send 15b messages a year by this means. E-mail messages may be sent to individuals or to groups, in which case transmission is called broadcasting. Email systems store messages in mailboxes with electronic addresses, which receivers check from time to time. After a message has been read, it can be electronically filed, copied to others, deleted, and/or printed out on paper. It usually takes only seconds for an e-mail message to reach its destination if nearby, or a few minutes if on the other side of the world.

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"E-MAIL." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"E-MAIL." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/e-mail

"E-MAIL." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/e-mail

e-mail

e-mail / ˈē ˌmāl/ (also e·mail) • n. messages distributed by electronic means from one computer user to one or more recipients via a network: [as adj.] e-mail messages. ∎  the system of sending messages by such electronic means: a contract communicated by e-mail. • v. [tr.] send an e-mail to (someone): you can e-mail me at my normal address. ∎  send (a message) by e-mail: employees can e-mail the results. DERIVATIVES: e-mail·er n.

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"e-mail." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"e-mail." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/e-mail

e-mail

e-mail (or email) Short for electronic mail.

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"e-mail." A Dictionary of Computing. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"e-mail." A Dictionary of Computing. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/computing/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/e-mail

E-Mail

E-MAIL

E-MAIL. SeeElectronic Mail .

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"E-Mail." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"E-Mail." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/e-mail

e-mail

e-mail: see electronic mail.

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"e-mail." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"e-mail." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/e-mail

"e-mail." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/e-mail