Is Your E-Mail Account Permanent?

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Webmail is a great thing–services like Hotmail and Gmail offer free storage and a personal E-mail address. But don't fool yourself into thinking it's permanent. The only lasting E-mail address is one you own yourself.

Laying claim to an Internet domain is the best way to control your E-mail address. Relying on an account given by an employer or an Internet service provider seems foolish; we've all wanted to jettison them at some point. Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail seem stable, but who knows in the still-wild ways of the Internet? Even if they stay around, they may not stay up. The services routinely one-up each other for nifty add-ons, like the hefty storage that Google introduced with its webmail service or Lycos's recently removing size limits on attachments.

With a domain of your own, say, you can forward your E-mail to any service you want, whether a box provided by Lycos or Gmail or your local Internet provider. Getting a domain can cost less than a dollar a month, and some registrars even throw in a free, ad-supported mailbox where you can actually fetch your incoming missives.

But you don't need one–a webmail account works peachy. Just don't make it your permanent address.