Letter writing was dying out as the pace of modern life has gotten faster and faster. Email, on the other hand, requires no trip to the post office nor having to lick stamps nor having to wait several days to a week for your recipient to get your message. Plus, you can reply to a message or forward a message with a minimum of time and effort.
You can send a message to anyone else who has a valid Internet email address whether this is an address provided by an online information service, a company (one's employer for instance), a university, or a personal Internet access provider account, anywhere in the world AND whether or not the person wants to hear from you. (See Junk Email.)
So what does an Internet email address look like? It is composed of specific parts, just as a "snail mail" or regular U.S. Postal Service mail address is. Email addresses are read from right to left word by word and appear on single line. Take this NONWORKING Internet email address as an example: (That is, this address does NOT belong to a real user. It's just a MADE-UP EXAMPLE to illustrate the point.)
Reading from the right, the first part is "us". This says that this address is in the United States. The Internet, remember, is worldwide and growing fast. Including country (and state) in newer names helps keep all these email addresses straight!
The next part is "tx". That means this address is in the state of Texas.
The next part is "lib". That means that this address has to do with a library. If it had "edu", that would be a school such as a university or even a middle school! If it had "gov", that would mean a governmental body such as the federal or state government. If it had "mil", it would be U.S.military. If it had "com" or "net", it would be commercial (like for a corporation or a company).
The next part is "hpl". This lets us know which particular library, Houston Public Library in this example.
The next part is "jesse". This is the name of a computer itself at Houston Public Library, named after the Jesse Jones Library bldg. which is the Central HPL library downtown.
Everything to the right of the "@" sign is considered the domain name. Everything to the left of the "@" sign is called the mailbox name. "HCPL_CC" means Harris County Public Library-Cypress Creek branch. [REMEMBER: This example DOES NOT contain a currently valid Internet address. Please do NOT send mail to the address in this example!!]
Here are some more examples (altered to protect users' privacy):
email@example.com...................Univ. of Houston Computer Science student firstname.lastname@example.org....................Houston Internet Connect subscriber email@example.com...............Prodigy online service subscriber firstname.lastname@example.org.......NASA-Johnson Space center employee Unclesam@aol.com..................America Online service subscriber
How can you get an email address?
Most people get their email addresses from either their employer (if Internet access is provided as part of their job) or from their Internet Service Provider (whether ISP or an online service, such as AOL). However, you CAN get your own email address for free by agreeing to have ads served with your email (e.g. Hotmail or Yahoo, for example. There are many more!)
One huge difference between email and snail mail is that the federal government cannot intercept your U.S. Postal Service mail and open your letters, as this would violate a citizen's right to privacy. However, email is not considered legally in the same category as paper correspondence. In other words, never put anything in an email message that you wouldn't mind seeing on the front page of the Houston Chronicle (or the New York Times)!
For more information see: