Webmail (or Web-based email) is an email service intended to be primarily accessed via a web browser, as opposed to through an email client, such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla's Thunderbird, or Apple Inc.'s Mail. Very popular webmail providers include Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail and AOL. See also Comparison of webmail providers.

A major advantage of web-based email over application-based email is that a user has the ability to access their inbox from any Internet-connected computer around the world. However, the need for Internet access is also a drawback, in that one cannot access their old messages when they are not connected to the Internet.

In 1997, prior to its acquisition by Microsoft, Hotmail introduced its service, which became one of the first popular web-based email offerings. Following Hotmail's initial success, Google's introduction of Gmail in 2004 sparked a period of rapid development in webmail, due to Gmail's new features such as JavaScript menus, text-based ads, and bigger storage.


The first webmail software was called simply WebMail and was developed in perl by Luca Manunza when he was working at CRS4. The first working demo was released on March 10, 1995; thereafter the source was released (with registration required) on March 30, 1995.

Software packages

There are also software packages that allow an organization such as company to offer email through the web for their associates. Some solutions are open source software like SquirrelMail, BlueMamba, RoundCube and IlohaMail, while others are closed source like the Outlook Web Access module for Microsoft Exchange, Alt-N Technologies' WorldClient module for MDaemon, and Atmail.

Conversely, there are programs that can simulate a web browser to access webmail as if it were stored in a POP3 or IMAP account. They are susceptible, though, to changes in the user interface of the web service since there is no standard interface.

Some providers, such as Mail2web offer web access to other's email servers. This allows web access to mailboxes where the mail server does not offer a web interface, or where an alternative interface is desired.

Rendering and compatibility

There are important differences in rendering capabilities for many popular webmail services such as Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and Windows Live Hotmail. Due to the various treatment of HTML tags, such as
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