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Webmail (or Web-based email) is used to describe two things. One use of the word is to describe a Webmail client: an email client implemented as a web application accessed via a web browser. This article focuses on this use of the term.
The other use of the word is to describe a Web-based email service: an email service offered through a web site (a webmail provider) such as Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail and AOL Mail. Practically every webmail provider offers email access using a webmail client, and many of them also offer email access by a desktop email client using standard email protocols, while many internet service providers provide a webmail client as part of the email service included in their internet service package.
As with any web application, webmail's main advantage over the use of a desktop email client is the ability to send and receive email anywhere from a web browser. Its main disadvantage is the need to be connected to the internet while using it (Gmail offers offline use of its webmail client through the installation of Gears.). There exist also other software tools to integrate parts of the webmail functionality into the OS (e.g. creating messages directly from third party applications via MAPI).
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