Over 300 billion emails a day worldwide – that’s the sheer volume of emails. Even in the age of instant messaging, social networks and video telephony, it is still impossible to imagine our daily life, especially at work, without email as a means of communication. Given the continued success of email, the sheer number of free email providers is not surprising. There should be no cost to you to receive and send emails: free mailboxes are particularly popular with individuals.
In my free messaging review article, you can find out where to get the most storage space for free, where to take advantage of the highest security standards and other features offered by different vendors. Besides the top three international free email providers Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook, I’ll also be looking at three other interesting and more local providers: GMX, mail.fr, and ProtonMail.
Launched by Google in 2004, the service enjoyed tremendous success in the industry at the time. For the first time in the history of free email, a provider had granted users a mailbox size of 1 GB. It was the start of a race between free email providers to deliver the highest volume. storage, and this race is still relevant. Thus, since the introduction of Gmail, storage volume has become a decisive factor in the competition between providers. Finally, more and more people are integrating Cloud services for file storage in their offers, in addition to the storage volume of mailboxes.
Gmail currently offers a total of 15 GB of storage space for bundled Google services: Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos. The maximum attachment size, which is 25MB by default, is also relatively generous. However, the service also offers to send a link to Google Drive instead of the file for larger attachments.
Since its inception, Gmail has notably relied on a particularly intuitive and easy-to-use user interface and a structure which, although it is browser-based, is strongly oriented towards independent email clients such as Outlook or Thunderbird, this which was also a revolution in 2004. Since then, the interface can now also be personalized or adapted. For example, the design can be personalized with your own images and photos. The tabs can also be adjusted according to individual needs, and the size of the different elements can also be adjusted.
Another advantage of Gmail is its perfect integration into the Google universe: in addition to Google Drive, Google Meet is particularly valuable here. This allows you to chat with friends within Gmail or have a video chat with up to ten people, on all devices. The free mailbox service is also available as apps for Android and iOS devices. Mailboxes are accessible via POP3 and IMAP protocols.
Gmail’s downside is its data protection policy: Google has long been criticized by data protection activists for loosening its guidelines. In addition, defenders of the rights of Internet users in Europe note violations of European directives and regulations on data protection (the GDPR). Indeed, users’ emails are “scanned” for certain keywords. This is how spam is identified, but this message analysis is also performed for advertising targeting and data collection purposes.
In conclusion, the standard active SSL / TLS protocol allows messages to be encrypted in order to protect the data they contain. However, this does not mean that your emails are end-to-end encrypted, as is the case with the other free email providers listed. The content of the mail itself is not specially protected, only the transport of the email to the server.
GMX is a German free messaging provider. The service is already used by more than 20,000,000 users across Europe. The service is particularly famous in France for having bought CaraMail in 2009 in order to position itself on the French market. GMX is distinguished by the location of these servers and data centers which are in Europe and mainly in Germany. GMX thus complies with strict European data protection legislation. The transmission of emails to the GMX server is exclusively encrypted by SSL / TLS.
The default storage space for the GMX mailbox is 1 GB. With the free activation of “GMX MailCheck”, you can expand this storage space. This free upgrade will encrypt emails, configure desktop notifications for incoming emails, and unlock another 500MB mailbox. GMX is therefore making a free bundle of up to 1.5GB in total. Attachment sizes can reach up to 50MB which is larger than most other providers. Finally, you can currently store up to 2 GB of files in your own cloud storage space.
GMX offers apps for Android and iOS. Thanks to this wide range of applications, all the emails and folders in your mailbox are available everywhere, even when you are on the go. In addition, a powerful spam filter is also integrated.
Visually, GMX’s user interface is maintained in blue as standard. But other models or designs can be selected and saved in the settings. Navigation is done via the menu bars at the top and left. The upper part allows a quick change between standard functions such as mailbox, cloud, calendar or address book. The home page also features advertising entries and links that fund the free messaging service.
ProtonMail offers a free mailbox service. It started in 2013 and was originally developed by young researchers at CERN and MIT. But it wasn’t until 2016, and thanks to a crowdfunding campaign, that the free messaging service was officially launched.
The definite advantage of this provider is data protection since ProtonMail and their servers are based in Switzerland, which means that user data is protected by Swiss privacy laws, which are quite strict in terms of data protection and respect. private. Another strong point of the free and open source email application is the automatic end-to-end encryption of all emails.
The basic free messaging service offers only 500MB of storage and unlimited support. The user interface is simple and efficient. However, if you want to take advantage of additional features, including more storage volume, you should subscribe to paid offers that also serve to help fund the project to protect online privacy. There is also an offer for companies.
Yahoo Mail is another free email provider, which, like Gmail, has invested heavily in the storage space on offer. Yahoo Mail even offers the user a record capacity of 1000 GB (or 1 TB). Deleting emails is therefore a thing of the past. The flip side is that there is no clean cloud storage. Only connection to external services like Dropbox or Google Drive is possible, for which a separate account is then necessary. In 2017, the provider introduced Yahoo Mail Pro, a paid alternative to the basic version, which offers an ad-free interface and priority customer support.
In addition, Yahoo Mail also offers a lot of customization options like for layout, sorting and preview of messages, as well as for inbox design. In addition to other features such as instant messaging, apps for iOS and Android, as well as POP3 and IMAP requests, an “adaptive” spam filter is also built in. According to the company, this filter will block “over 15 billion spam emails per day.” Yahoo Mail also makes it easy to set up temporary email addresses. In a way, this is a preventative measure against spam, since you can use these email addresses to sign up with online merchants, mailing lists or forums, for example, without having to disclose. your real email address. If it is no longer needed, simply delete or modify it. This reduces, for example, the number of unwanted advertising messages.
However, when it comes to data protection, Yahoo Mail has the same issues as Gmail. SSL / TLS encryption is used to transfer messages between the browser and the Yahoo server.
The personal information manager (or PIM in English) developed by Microsoft has long been known as “Outlook”. It is part of the Microsoft Office software package. But since spring 2013, Microsoft’s former free “Hotmail” email service has been replaced by the very similar “Outlook.com” webmail service. With Outlook, Microsoft wants to compete more strongly with free email providers such as Yahoo or Gmail.
The first and most important advantage is its seamless integration into the Microsoft universe. Indeed, by connecting to Outlook.com, one can simultaneously access other services of the computer giant, such as the video telephony and Skype chat service, OneDrive cloud storage, Office Online or OneNote. Thanks to Office interfaces, Outlook is also suitable for more complex work environments and has a user interface that is as intuitive as it is familiar. In terms of storage space, Outlook.com is by no means inferior to Google’s Gmail service: With a capacity of 15 GB, there is more space than needed for all emails. In addition, an additional 5 GB is available for free for all file types in Microsoft’s integrated OneDrive solution. Attachments can also be 25MB in size in Outlook.
Another useful feature is the fact that Outlook – like Gmail and Yahoo Mail – offers both POP3 and IMAP protocols for retrieving mail. For example, mailboxes can also be synchronized on mobile devices. Apps for all popular mobile devices are also available.
All of this is also free on Outlook. There is also the option to upgrade to a premium paid version. In this version, the advertisement is then hidden in the browser interface. Personalized Content Targeting Advertising: Under Microsoft’s terms of service, email, file, and chat content is not used to target advertising. Instead, data such as location or surfing behavior is used via cookies. Indeed, the privacy statement clearly states that: “Certain Microsoft services are sponsored by advertising. To display advertisements that are more likely to be of interest to you, we leverage data associated with your location, your web searches through Bing, the Microsoft web pages or the advertisers you visit, as well as your demographics and of your favorites. However, we do not use what you say in emails, chats, video calls or voicemail, or your documents, photos or other personal files to send you targeted ads. “
However, the location of the servers is again uncertain: like many free email providers located in the United States, Microsoft maintains its servers around the world. The location of the data is therefore as unclear as with Google and Yahoo.
Mail.fr is a free email provider that is still relatively unknown, but which nevertheless has a lot to offer, especially in terms of security. The data centers are located in Germany, which means that the data is stored in accordance with European regulations (GDPR) regarding data protection. Mail.fr also plays the card of high security when it comes to encryption of communications: there is SSL / TLS encryption and a DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) signature for each email sent. This means that the authenticity of messages sent from the mail.fr server can be verified by the recipient. For example, phishing attempts are thus detected.
The storage space is quite small since it is limited to 2 GB. Like other free email providers, mail.fr does not distinguish between online storage for the inbox and separate storage for files. . However, this negative point is offset by a very generous maximum size for attachments. In fact, the limit is 60MB, both when receiving and sending email, which is sufficient even for very large attachments of documents or photos.
The design of mail.fr is very simple: with the address book, calendar and online storage, you can adapt and extend the interface according to your needs. There are other useful features like spam and virus protection or apps available for Android and iOS. Secure login through two-factor authentication is done through mobile apps: the mail.fr authenticator is available for both operating systems. This separate app delivers a 6-digit passcode, which is also required for logging in and turns the free mailbox into a real fortress. Like all other free email providers, mail.fr is primarily funded through advertising.
Tutanota is a free email client that focuses primarily on data protection. Established shortly before the revelations of the Snowden affair, the Hanover-based service offers end-to-end encrypted email for secure communication. Automatic encryption covers subject lines, body, attachments, contacts, and calendar. To be able to read your emails, you must have a key activated with a unique password that allows you to decrypt them locally, on your computer or on the application available for Android and iOS. If you lose or forget your password, you will no longer have access to your email; keep it well.
This open-source software has its servers based in Germany and is GDPR compliant. Tutanota supports U2F for two-factor authentication and Secure Connect for secure contacts. It is preferable that your correspondents also use encrypted messaging to read your emails, but not essential. If this is not the case, they will be able to temporarily access your encrypted emails on the email client using a link and a password that you define.
Tutanota offers you a free mailbox without advertising, but limited to one user and 1 GB of storage space. You can also opt for a subscription, monthly or annual, starting at 1.20 euros per month. You can increase your storage space, add users and calendars, customize your domain name or take advantage of the white label functionality. The clean and minimalist design as well as the simple operation of this free email provider makes it a serious competitor to ProtonMail.
At first glance, free offers from different free email providers often seem like the perfect choice for demanding tasks. Thanks to their powerful features and various security mechanisms such as SSL / TLS encryption, DKIM signing or authenticator, free mailboxes for business use are quite convincing. If you opt for services such as GMX, ProtonMail or Mail.fr, you are also safe in terms of data protection thanks to the location of the servers in the European Union or in Switzerland. However, free services may not be the right choice for everyone. This is mainly due to the fact that the mailboxes of free messaging providers are always linked to the brand’s own domain name, which is not very practical, especially for companies, or it can often be perceived as a lack of seriousness.
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