Many people opt for a free webmail account with Yahoo!, Gmail, Hotmail, etc. A webmail account allows you to access your email from any computer that is connected to the Internet. Although Hotmail was the first to offer free webmail accounts, these days the real competition is between Gmail and Yahoo!. Before making your choice, and aside from the look-and-feel which you should check out yourself, here are a few features to consider:
- Mailbox size (storage): Gmail currently gives a huge space (7GB), and this increases over time. Yahoo! responded by offering "unlimited storage". Hence, you will most likely never reach the limit in either.
- Ability to forward to another address: Yahoo! requires a paid subscription in order to forward your email to a new address. This means that once you have an email account with them you are "trapped". In contrast, Gmail does allow free forwarding.
- Mobile phone interface: Gmail has a neat interface for mobile phones. Similarly, Yahoo! has Yahoo! Mobile Services.
- Attachment type and size limit: If you plan to attach large files, this is something to consider. In Yahoo! the limit is 10MB. In Gmail it is 20MB. Also, Gmail does not allow attaching executable files (such as .exe), to avoid viruses. Both providers scan attachments for viruses.
- Searching your mailbox: Both providers have search functions to search your email. I've found the Google search to be quite powerful. Yahoo! had a glitch in 2008 where searches were not retrieving any email or only a small subset (this can be fixed by emailing their support -- see this thread)
- Dormant account: If you will not have any activity in your account for long periods, you should consider the duration before the account will be deleted. In Gmail the duration is around 9 months. Yahoo! (and Hotmail) delete dormant accounts after 4 months.
- Building up your address book: Gmail automaticlly adds the email addresses of those who you reply to. Yahoo! requires you to enter them yourself.
- Organizing your emails: Yahoo! uses folders, where you can file an email to a folder. Gmail uses a different system called "labels". You can give an email one or more labels, thereby "filing" it into one or more "folders". These are not really folders although the operation is similar but more flexible.