Usa.net provides Netaddress, a free private email service. Unlike many other email providers, when Usa.net says private, they mean private. Unless you divulge your email address, you will never receive any unsolicited email except for the single welcome message generated when you open an account. When you sign up, you provide very basic personal information including name, address, demographic background and how you found the site. Simply chose a username and a password and that's it. As Netaddress is a very popular service, your first choice of name will probably be taken. Netaddress will generate some alternatives, if nothing suits you, then you can input two words and generate a short list of combinations. Once you've signed up and logged in for the first time, you'll have a range of services at your disposal. These include collecting POP email from up to 5 accounts, scheduling email reminders, a junk mail blocker, vacation reply, folder storage and history of usage. In addition to these services, you can customise your account by accessing your settings, profile, password and signatures. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? Where's the catch, you'll ask. How does Usa.net provide a private 5 Mb email account to thousands of individuals? Well, there is the inevitable amount of ad space sold - you'll notice (or rather you won't notice) an unobtrusive banner ad at the top of the web page and 3 to 4 small buttons on the left hand side of the web page. The welcome page has a few discrete links but more usually these relate to media coverage of Netaddress rather than ads. Finally, there is the option to subscribe to "Direct Delivery" which contains external services. It sounds like a lot but I assure you it is about as noticable as the background colour of a website. The final point, is that Usa.net provides e-messaging solutions to a large number of clients, and I would suppose Netaddress is something of a &qu
ot;show-case" model. Back to the features ... 5 Mb is a lot of web space and, realistically, you're unlikely to exceed it. You can store draft emails, view a history of your account transactions and search your stored emails. There is a detailed address book which can import/export to common email programs. You can use attachments, use "Vacation Reply" to set up an auto-response message and filter incoming emails into different folders. If you ever get stuck, there is a comprehensive online help file and you can always email a customer service rep who will typically respond within 48 hours (remember to allow for differences in your local GMT time zone and national holidays). To take an example, suppose you are a UK resident going on vacation for two weeks to America. Set up POP collection for your other email accounts, using "Basic Services > Collecting" and then set up an auto-response email using "Basic Services > Vacation Reply" to run for the two weeks. While you're on holiday in America, you can go to a web cafe and check your email in the comforting knowledge that if you don't have time to respond to everyone, they will know you'll get back to them in a fortnight. Perfect. I have tried so many different email providers over the years. Some of them were ISPs, some were plain web accounts. Big names like Hotmail, Virgin or Yahoo don't necessarily ensure good performance and small companies are always in danger of disappearing. It says something that I have always returned to Netaddress - it is tried, tested and true. I whole-heartedly recommend using Netaddress as your primary email account. Remember: if you don't give out your address, you don't get spammed. Always use a secondary account for competitions, message boards, etc. Usa.net is not an ISP. (Note to Dooyoo, thanks for creating this category but please move it to Web Services > Email.) But Netaddress is th
e best email provider you will ever find. Period. ** UPDATE ** From July 31, this year, Netaddress will be suspending its free email service. They will be changing to a premium service called the Netaddress Messaging Center. Current account holders should upgrade to this premium service before July 31 if they want to keep their username and account settings; otherwise, they should immediately forward any messages to an alternate account as they will be deleted when their account is closed. Up till July 31, Netaddress Messaging Center accounts will be available at a cost of $29.99 USD (at June 30, £21.17 GBP), inclusive of a 40% discount, for one year. I calculate that a standard one year subscription will therefore be $41.99 USD (at June 30, £29.64 GBP). The main additions to this new premium service will be increased storage space (10 Mb instead of 2 Mb), POP access, no advertising, forwarding and virus scanning. All the other formerly free features, such as spam blockers and 24/7 customer service, will still be included. Netaddress will still, in my mind, be a great email provider. There are very few companies out there who geniunely do not sell or use your personal data. However, I don't think that I will be prepared to pay for Netaddress, so I will have to engage in the tedious business of forwarding my emails and notifying people of my change of address. Anyone who is in the same boat should take a look at www.myrealbox.com - a great email service that can be accessed using the web or POP. The email address may not be as snappy as @usa.net but the service features are comparable with Netaddress.