After completing this section you should be able to:

  • explain what electronic mail is
  • describe how email works
  • discuss in detail the advantages and disadvantages of using email and the World Wide Web

Email is another important facility offered by the Internet, and its use is increasing every day.It is a method of sending messages from one terminal to another via a communications link.

As with all other computer functions, it requires the appropriate software.

You also need to have an email account, which is usually supplied by the Internet Service Provider that you use. You can then have an email address, which must be different from anyone else’s address. To send a message, you also need to know the email address of the person you are sending it to.

Exam questions often ask you to describe how to send an email.

The software provides the interface for writing and addressing the message.

It also displays messages received, and provides functions such as an address book and diary.

Messages can be written, and any documents attached to them, while the computer is off-line. This helps to keep costs down. Telephone charges are only incurred while actually sending and receiving messages.

When the message is finished, it can be sent to an Outbox in the source computer. The same message can be sent to many different people, simply by adding their email addresses to the address box.

  • You will then use your communications software and modem to connect to the ISP’s file server. Once connected, you can tell the system to transmit the message, and to receive any incoming messages, which will go into an Inbox.
  • The sent message is placed in a mail box on a main computer.
  • As soon as the person to whom you have sent the message logs on (connects his or her computer system to the Internet), he or she can access their mail box and, when the incoming message has been transmitted to the Inbox, read the message.

Email and the World Wide Web


  • Email provides a quick way of sending messages all around the world.
  • People often feel that it is all right to send a quick message by email whereas, with a traditional letter or telephone call, they have to spend more time.
  • The email can be printed, so it can be kept like a traditional letter and, in a commercial context, could provide valuable proof that a person has agreed to something.
  • The same message can be sent to many recipients at the same time. Exam questions often ask for the advantages and disadvantages of email over traditional mail.
  • Documents prepared in many types of software can be attached to emails and sent with them. This includes pictures and video clips.
  • Users of email can join mailing lists covering specific topics. These give interested people a chance to get together and talk about a subject by email. Regular updates can be sent out on particular issues.
  • The World Wide Web provides an almost limitless source of information and, if it is used carefully, can provide valuable information for research of all kinds.
  • The results of research can be published immediately on the Web so that information available is always up-to-date.



  • In working situations, the use of email, and surfing the World Wide Web, can lead to a lot of time wasting.
  • Messages deliberately designed to cause trouble, or upset people, can easily be sent to many targets.
  • Young people may gain access to sites that are not designed for them and may contain unsuitable material.
  • Some people would say that certain users, often young people, become ‘addicted’ to surfing the Web and are no longer interested in other activities.
  • Viruses can easily be sent to millions of recipients and can cause massive system breakdowns.
  • A lot of ‘junk mail’ can be sent. In addition to being unwanted, the recipient has to pay telephone charges while this mail is downloaded.
  • The Internet is widely used as a source of up-to-date reference material, but there is no way of checking the quality of information displayed on web pages. It is quite possible for unscrupulous operators to display information that is quite untrue (see checking data below).Try to remember at least four advantages and four disadvantages.

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