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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 . [1] 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.

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.

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