Rich Warren | When it comes to email service, Gmail is best option

Rich Warren | When it comes to email service, Gmail is best option

People abandon email for social media and/or texting, but email remains the dominant means of internet communication.

Once, a score of free email providers offered their services in return for attaching advertising to your emails, selling your information or otherwise monetizing your use of their services.

Once, the largest email provider, AOL, which initially charged for internet access and email, eventually allowed free email. However, since the rise of mega internet service providers, such as Comcast, and social media, such as Facebook, many free email providers merged, were bought out or simply unplugged and left the business. The latter's business plan resembled: "Hey, Joe, turn the lights out, lock the door and toss the key, but leave the email server plugged in."

This prefaces a reader email:

"Is there any one email provider that is safer than the others. I have a Hotmail account, have had it for years and years, but someone keeps hacking it, and no matter how many times I change my password, they keep getting it."

Hotmail was one of the early email services, founded in 1996. Microsoft acquired it shortly thereafter to compete with AOL. Microsoft kept changing the name, and the descendent of Hotmail is now woven into Microsoft's Outlook.

However, Microsoft "grandfathered" those with Hotmail, retaining the name and accounts but placing its emphasis on Outlook. Envision something like the first floor of an ultra-modern office building with a door leading to a musty, cobweb-filled basement. In the corner of that basement blinks a barely functioning old PC labeled "Hotmail, do not touch." Yahoo mail suffers a similar fate and has been hacked far more frequently than Hotmail.

Enter Google, which actually considers email an important component of its vast and profitable empire. Regular readers know that I'm not a great fan of Google, because its entire corporate objective centers on finding as much information about its customers as possible, packaging it and selling it to advertisers and marketers.

With that said, Gmail is by far the best free, freestanding email service available. Google meticulously and ardently filters spam. It suggests two-step authentication that prevents the bad guys from commandeering your email address. (That can be a bit of a hassle, but well worth it if, like our reader, your email account has been hacked.)

Gmail also offers more options and configurations than just about any email on the market. While you can use it in plain vanilla mode at sign-up, you'll probably want to invite an expert (or teenager) over to help you make the most of it.

Google doesn't actually care what you say within your email. If you're having a steamy affair with someone not your spouse, it's not going to blackmail you or tell anyone else of your indiscretion. Short of a court order, no one will ever actually read your emails. However, if in your torrid exchanges with your amour you mention a desire to see him or her in a pink tutu, you may mysteriously start receiving advertising for tutus. Or anything that's pink.

Another advantage of Gmail is its complete universality. It works on any and all devices you might own. It's totally agnostic whether you worship Apple, labor in the Microsoft mines or exalt in Linux. Gmail doesn't care whether you use Google's own Android smartphone operating system or Apple's iOS. Well, Google does care, but it won't hold a grudge.

Look at it this way. You drive over to Sullivan-Parkhill displaying a shiny new Mercedes Benz S450. The sticker says it's free, but there's an asterisk. Beneath the asterisk is a clause that says: "In return for using this car, it will report everywhere you go, your driving habits, everything you say within it, everything you do within it, what you order at the drive-thru and everything else involving the car."

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

Topics (2):Internet, Technology