Free web email accounts are a great way to stay connected with family & friends, apply for jobs, pay bills, shop online, etc. But how to control the chaotic inbox, and deal with spam, marketing emails, etc.? Separately, now that email has become a de facto part of our day-to-day (share in the comments: what’s your unread inbox count that you ignore?), it is also important to consider which free web email service is the most professional for job applications, submitting official paperwork, etc.?
In this article, I will attempt to answer these, and other questions, with some creative uses (think tips & tricks), go over disposable email addresses, and more. Let’s dive right in!
Which free web email accounts are the most professional?
For some reason, some everyday free web-based emails seem more professional than others. For example, having an AOL (@aol.com) email address may be viewed as “outdated.” The same article puts Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail in the same vein. However, according to this other article, Gmail continues to be the most professional of the bunch. It could also be argued that all of these free services are for personal use only; and the only way to have a “professional” email address is to have a company or organization domain. My take? I agree. Gmail is the most professional one out of the free online bunch; and nothing beats a company or organization domain.
I also think there’s room between Gmail and a company domain. Room for a personal custom domain. You can purchase a custom domain name (e.g., myfamilyname.com) through a domain registrar such as Namecheap. Once you have registered a domain name, you can create email addresses for yourself and whoever else through a web hosting provider. Most domain registrars, like Namecheap, offer hosting too. I personally like and recommend DreamHost for hosting. With DreamHost, you can sign up to host only your email; however, if you sign up for a website (it can be a basic one-pager), you can get unlimited emails under that domain that you are linking to that hosting for your new website. Although I haven’t done so yet (it’s on my to-do’s), I own our family name as a domain. Hosting it as a website would allow each family member to have their own email address at that domain name. Of course, this could really grow into a whole system (but I doubt I will do it that way). In a few, I have a tip for you on accessing that custom domain email.
Building on what I was saying before the custom domain tangent, as a parent, and a digital one at that, I went with Gmail. Now, I’ve been upfront, and even vocal, about how I favor Google; but I’m not a fanboi. Back then, the only alternative was Apple. However, I did not like iTunes, did not like the walled garden, did not like the lack of phone-customization (I’m a geek after all), and finally I did not like the pricing. For those who wanted something that just worked with little-to-no fuss (and works really well, I must admit), Apple is the answer. Keep in mind I’m a Linux guy and love having that on my Mac. Then again, I get that on my Chromebook too; and now get that on Windows as well. To be fair, I also have a Linux machine. Yes, I have all 4 major operating systems … actively running. Android, back then, allowed me to root and flash my own ROM, add my own alarms, wallpaper, etc. It allowed me to use it closer to how I would use a computer. And with Android, my use of Google products only grew. OK, I’ve shared enough. Back to it …
What Sets Gmail Apart?
Gmail is one of the most popular email accounts & service in the world; and there are a few key things that set it apart from other email providers:
Gmail uses a variety of security measures to protect users’ data, including encryption, spam filtering, and phishing protection. This is important for all users, but it’s especially important for kids, who may be more vulnerable to online threats.
Access to other Google tools
Gmail users also get access to a variety of other free Google tools, such as Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and Google Drive. These tools can be used for a variety of purposes, such as creating and editing documents, creating presentations, and storing files.
This can be a great way for kids to stay organized and productive with their schoolwork. For example, they can use Google Docs to write essays and create reports, and they can use Google Slides to create presentations for school projects.
Shared calendars are another great feature of Gmail –Really, of the Google suite of tools that comes with having a Google account (your Gmail). They allow users to easily share their calendars with others, making it easy to coordinate schedules and activities.
This can be a very helpful feature for families. For example, parents and kids can use a shared calendar to track each other’s schedules, including school events, sports practices, and doctor’s appointments. Shared calendars can also be used to create shopping lists and to-do lists. In my family, we also have a (separate) “menu” calendar that answers the dreaded question of “what’s for dinner?” Those kids who are old, and are out & about, now know what to expect … or what they might be missing.
Overall, Gmail’s security features, access to other Google tools, and shared calendars make it a great choice for parents who are exploring email for their kids.
Tip: Did you know you could access your custom domain email address via Gmail? I do it all the time. Learn how here. Add that to the list, of many, on what sets Gmail apart.
The Chaotic Inbox
There are other reasons that sets Gmail apart from the rest (Google Photos, storage space, features within Gmail, etc.) but to keep to the topic of this article, and specifically focus on the chaotic inbox, I wanted to highlight a few things:
The easiest, and perhaps the most common method, to control the madness is to have a different email address for different things. And that works very well; but managing multiple inboxes can get old quick too. That said, here are a couple of reasons on why I have multiple email accounts, which I hope inspire you:
- I have a Yahoo! Mail email address for all my shopping; and most of whatever else I might sign up for.
- I have two Gmail email accounts: One is my personal one; and I’m very selective giving it out. And the other is for my bills. Emails from my different sources of bills (e.g., streaming, electric, mortgage/rent, doctor visits, etc.) is all I use that 2nd email address. And because of that very specific use-case, I don’t have to manage that account’s docs, drive, photos, calendar, etc. I only use it as an email for my bills. And that, in return, makes it a lot easier to manage.
Use Gmail’s Hidden Gems
Many, if not most, do not know about the following 2 hidden gems of Gmail:
- The dots do not matter: That’s right! The dots (periods) in your username –the part before the “@” sign– in a Gmail account (only) do not matter. Because Gmail doesn’t recognize dots as characters within usernames, adding or removing dots from a Gmail address do not affect the intended email address.
Messages sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com are all delivered to your Inbox just the same. This means you can provide one online service with the email address firstname.lastname@example.org; and another online store or service (or a different account on the same store or service) email@example.com. While they both resolve to the same email inbox, most retailers consider them as two different emails. You could get really creative if you have a long name (capitalizing for illustration only): AdamJPeterson and Adam.J.Peterson and AdamJ.Peterson are all the same Gmail usernames.
- Using the plus sign (+): You can use the “+” sign to create unlimited Gmail addresses that all point to your original email address. For example, if your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, you can use email@example.com for Amazon-related emails and firstname.lastname@example.org for eBay emails. Just be sure to append the “+” at the end of the username (not anywhere else). Also, some online stores/services may not accept a plus sign (+) in the email address when you sign up. Basically, YMMV.
If you need something less permanent and more resembling a Mission Impossible message, then the multiple email accounts and the Gmail gems may not work for you. Instead, you need disposable email addresses.
When and why to use disposable email addresses
Disposable email addresses, also known as temporary or throwaway email addresses, allow you to create a temporary email address that you can use for a limited period of time. These email addresses are typically used for a single purpose, such as signing up for a website, downloading a file, or accessing content that requires an email address for registration.
Think of throwaway email as your digital superhero costume. It’s the email equivalent of putting on a mask, except instead of fighting crime, you’re fighting spam. It’s your go-to option for those one-time sign-ups that clutter your inbox. The beauty of throwaway emails? They’re quick, anonymous, and disposable. Just remember, they’re not for long-term pen-pals (do people know what those are anymore?) —this is strictly a one-night stand with your inbox.
Oh, and here’s the catch: while they’re excellent at receiving emails, if you want to send one, you might have to whip out your wallet. But hey, if you want to bid farewell to spam, a few bucks might be well worth it!
Let’s take a closer look at their benefits and limitations.
Benefits of disposable email addresses for parents
- Privacy protection: Disposable email can help you to protect your primary email address from spam, unwanted marketing emails, and potential security risks associated with sharing your email online.
- Spam reduction: Disposable email addresses are a great way to avoid spam in your primary inbox, as you can use a disposable email for online sign-ups, and then simply discard it after its purpose is fulfilled.
- Time management: Disposable email addresses can save you time by preventing you from having to manage multiple email accounts. This is especially helpful if you are signing up for a lot of different websites or services.
- Convenience: Disposable email addresses are typically free to use and easy to sign up for. You can create a disposable email address in just a few minutes, and you do not need to provide any personal information.
Limitations of disposable email addresses
- Limited lifespan: Disposable email addresses typically have a short lifespan. If you need to receive emails for an extended period, they may not be suitable.
- Not for important communications: Disposable email addresses are not intended for important or long-term communications, as they are temporary and can expire quickly.
- Blocked by some services: Some online services or websites may block or restrict the use of disposable email addresses, making them unsuitable for certain registrations or activities.
- Incompatibility with some services: While disposable emails work for many sign-ups, some services may require a unique or verifiable email address, making disposable emails impractical.
- Limited features: Disposable email addresses typically do not offer advanced email features like storage, folders, or advanced filtering options.
- Verification codes: Be aware that if you use a disposable email for important sign-ups, you might have trouble accessing verification codes or password reset emails if the address expires.
- Data retention: Some disposable email addresses may retain your data or logs temporarily, so do not assume they are completely anonymous.
Top free disposable email address providers
There are plenty of free (and paid) disposable email address service providers. Some have become so known that many online retailers have blocked them. That, along with being free (what I’m focused on for this article), forces these providers to explore other income generating models, which in turn creates a lot of churn in this niche.
Below, I’ve curated for you a few of the highly rated disposable email address service providers I researched. Whenever possible, I preferred open-source (for security & privacy), and of course, free. Some services may offer free basic functionality; however, anything beyond that comes at a premium. For the below, I’m focused on 100% free (is there such a thing?). The following is not any particular order:
- 10 Minute Mail: 10 Minute Mail provides email accounts / addresses that are active for 10 minutes, which is typically sufficient for quick sign-ups and verifications. It does not require registration. However, you should note this is one of the services that has gained a lot of popularity; and therefore, may be blocked by many online sites.
- Guerrilla Mail: Guerrilla Mail allows you to create disposable email accounts / addresses on the fly. It offers features like customizable domains, inbox access for a limited time (so you can send and receive), as well as attachments. This service might be the top one out there; if not, in the top 3 for sure. Like 10 Minute Mail, it is rapidly gaining popularity; and you know what that means.
- Maildrop: Maildrop is another noteworthy disposable email provider that is known for its user-friendly options. Like 10 Minute Mail, Maildrop does not require registration or any personal information.
One of the unique features of Maildrop is that it allows you to create your own alias. I won’t get into that because I do not recommend it. Why? Using your own alias for a disposable email can be a privacy concern, especially since already-existing aliases are open to the public. If you are concerned about your privacy, you should avoid using your own alias for Maildrop.
Maildrop also claims that its temporary email accounts are accepted everywhere. This can be helpful if a site blocks other disposable email providers. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when using Maildrop. First, Maildrop does not allow attachments. Second, Maildrop can only accept text or simple HTML. This means that any emails with complex formatting or attachments may not be displayed correctly.
Disposable email addresses can be a valuable tool for parents who want to protect their privacy, reduce spam, and save time. However, it is important to be aware of their risks, limitations, and to use them responsibly.
Here are some key points to remember about disposable or throwaway email:
- They can help you to protect your privacy by preventing companies from collecting and selling your email address.
- They can help to reduce spam by preventing companies from sending you promotional emails that you don’t want to receive.
- They can save you time by preventing you from having to manage multiple email accounts.
- They are typically free to use and easy to sign up for.
It should go without saying that disposable email may not have all the features of a traditional email address, and –by their sheer nature– may expire after a certain period of time. Like any other online site, it is also important to be careful about what information you share with companies when you sign up for using their services.
That said, we have many options for email accounts; and I hope I outlined what might work for you best. For me personally, while I use disposable email addresses, it’s rare. I rely mostly on multiple email addresses along with the Gmail “gems” I outlined above to get most of what I need done.
Curious, what do you do for such needs? Let me know in the comments. ▪️
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