Email Address

What is an Email Address?

An email address is a unique identifier that is used to send and receive electronic messages over the internet. Every address has two parts that are separated by an “@” symbol.

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The first part of an email address is called the username or local name. The second part of the address is called the domain name.

Email addresses are designed to be read from the most specific to the most general part.

Techopedia Explains

The first part of an email address is typically created by the individual or organization that owns the email address. The second part of the email address specifies which mail server (or email server cluster) is responsible for receiving and storing emails until they are retrieved by the recipient.

Usernames can consist of letters or some combination of letters, special characters, and/or numbers. They are usually not case-sensitive.

Domain names are structured in a hierarchy with levels that are separated by periods. The secondary level domain (SLD) name is typically associated with a specific organization or service provider. The top-level domain (TLD) hierarchy can be generic or country-specific.

So, the .com part of an email address represents the top-level domain. Here are some commonly used TLDs:
.com: For businesses and commercial entities
.edu: For educational institutions
.org: For organizations
.gov: For governmental agencies
.net: For network providers

Email Address

The format for an email address is standardized by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in the RFC 5322 specification. Standardization ensures that email addresses are universally recognized and compatible across different email systems and clients.

The Importance of Choosing an Email Provider

Once you decide you want a new email address, the first thing you need to do is choose an email service provider. Many email services are free, but paid email services usually have more features. When deciding whether to use a free or paid service, it’s important to consider features like archival storage space, security options, and customer support.

Free Email Service Providers

Provider Description
Gmail Known for its user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI) and integration with other Google cloud services.
Outlook Provides integration with Microsoft Office 365 products and services.
Yahoo Mail Known for its large storage capacity.
Zoho Mail Known for its privacy and email security features.
Proton Mail Focuses on security and is known for providing end-to-end encryption.
AOL Mail Offers unlimited storage that is supported by advertising.
iCloud Mail A good privacy protection option for users who rely on the Apple ecosystem.
Tuta Mail Open source email provider known for privacy and security.
Mail.com Offers a wide range of domain options for new email addresses.

Provider Description
Google Workspace G  Suite A business version of Google services that includes Gmail.
Outlook for Business Business-class email that integrates with Microsoft Office.
Zoho Workplace A more advanced version of Zoho Mail that has additional business tools and features.
Proton Unlimited The paid version of ProtonMail offers additional domain names and more storage.
FastMail Known for its strong privacy controls. Offers customizable domains.
Hushmail Targets healthcare professionals who need secure, encrypted email services for regulatory compliance purposes.
Rackspace Offers business email hosting services with dedicated email account support and advanced security features.
Runbox Offers a range of email hosting services with an emphasis on privacy and sustainable operations. Allows unlimited email aliases.

How to Create an Email Address

Once you’ve chosen an email service provider, you can create an email address in a few minutes.

Here are the basic steps:

How to Create an Email Address

  1. Visit the Provider’s Website or App: Go to the provider’s website or download their mobile app. Look for a “sign-up” or “create account option.”
  2. Fill Out the Sign-Up Form: Expect to be asked for several types of information, including your name, date of birth, and possibly a phone number for account recovery and verification purposes.
  3. Choose Your Username: You will be prompted to create the local part of the address before the ‘@’ symbol. Since email addresses must be unique, your first choice might already be taken. Most email services will suggest available alternatives if this is the case. Try to choose a username that is both memorable and appropriate for your intended use.
  4. Create a Password: Be sure to create a strong password that includes a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters.
  5. Complete Additional Steps: Depending upon the email service, you may have to complete additional steps like agreeing to the provider’s terms of service (ToS) and/or completing a CAPTCHA to prove you are not a bot. Follow these steps as instructed.
  6. Verify Your Account: Some email services will require you to verify your new account through a phone number or secondary email address. If prompted, follow the instructions.
  7. Access Your Email Account: Once your account is created and verified, you can log in using your new email address and password. At this point, most providers will send you a welcome email with answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs).
  8. If Prompted, Set Up Account Recovery Options: This feature will be helpful in case you forget your password or username later on.
  9. Customize Your Email Settings: If desired, use your new email account settings to customize your email signature, out-of-office replies, and user interface (UI) appearance.

How to Change an Email Address

If you’re looking to modify your existing email address, such as changing the local part before the ‘@’ symbol, it’s important to know that most email providers do not allow changes to email addresses once they are created.

In this situation, the most straightforward approach is simply to create a new email address.

  1. You can do this by signing up for a new account with your preferred email provider and choosing a new email address during the registration process.
  2. Once you have a new email address, the next step is to transition your email use from the old email address to the new one.
  3. Begin by informing your email contacts about your new email address and updating online accounts. Take time to verify your new email address on social media accounts, online banking, work-related accounts, and any other services where your old email address was used for logging in or communication.
  4. To ensure you don’t miss any important communications, consider setting up automated email forward mechanisms from your old email address to your new one. This can usually be done through the settings of your old email account.
  5. Additionally, you may also want to set up an auto-reply message on your old account to inform senders about your new email address.
  6. Remember to regularly check your old email account during the transition period to ensure you’re not missing any important communications.

Over time, as you and your contacts adjust to the new address, you can gradually phase out the use of your old email account or even decide to close it. Before closing any email account, however, be sure you’ve saved and/or backed up all important emails, contacts, and files.

How to Find Your Email Address

If you manage multiple email accounts and need to confirm which email address is associated with a specific email platform, the easiest way is to check and see if you’re already logged into the platform’s email client or webmail service. If you are, you can find your email address by looking at the account settings or clicking on the “To:” field on an email in your inbox.

If you’re not logged in, consider looking for other places where your email address might be visible. For example, if you know you’ve emailed someone from the platform in question, text them and ask them to verify the address your last email came from.

You can also check websites where you might have used the email address to sign up. In this scenario, log into the site and look at your user profile or account settings to see what email address you used for registration.

Another way is to look for autofill information in your web browser. If you’ve allowed autofill for the platform’s webmail, the address might fill itself in when you start typing. You could also try the ‘forgot my password’ feature on the login page. This will often show you a part of your email address, which might help you remember it.

If you’re still unable to find your email address, you may have to go through a password reset or account recovery process on the email service’s website. If you can regain access, you should be able to check your account details to find your email address.

How to Block an Email Address (in Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft Outlook, HubSpot)

To help you manage unwanted emails, hosting platforms with email management capabilities like HubSpot and email clients like Yahoo, Gmail, and Outlook will allow you to block specific email addresses or all emails from specific domains.

Blocking is a reversible (and effective) way to avoid unwanted communication. Here are the general steps involved:

Yahoo Mail

  • Start by opening an email from the sender you want to block.
  • Look for an icon with three dots or a ‘More’ button near the top of the email.
  • Click on the option to ‘Block Sender.’
  • You’ll be asked to confirm your decision to block the sender. Once confirmed, future messages from this sender will be automatically moved to your spam folder.

Gmail

  • Open an email from the sender you wish to block.
  • Click the three dots in the top right corner of the email.
  • In the dropdown menu, you’ll find an option to ‘Block [Sender’s Name]’. Click on this.
  • Gmail will confirm that future messages from this sender will be marked as spam.

Outlook

  • Start by opening the email from the sender you want to block.
  • Click on the ‘Junk’ button in the top menu of the email view, and then select ‘Block Sender’.
  • Outlook will then add this sender to your blocked senders list, and future emails will go to your junk email folder.

HubSpot

  • In HubSpot, you need to access your settings. Click on your profile icon in the top right corner, then select ‘Settings’.
  • Within settings, navigate to the ‘Email’ section.
  • Look for a section or tab labeled something like ‘Blocked Email Addresses.’
  • Manually enter the email address you want to block and save your changes.

How to Delete an Email Address

If you want to delete a primary email address, you’ll need to close the associated email account. The exact process will vary depending on the email service provider, but the first step will always be to log into the email account for the address you want to delete.

  • Once logged in, you’ll need to find the account settings or options menu. Settings are often located in the upper right corner of the screen or are represented by a gear icon. Within the account settings, look for an option related to account management, security, or privacy.
  • In this section, you should find options for managing your account, including closing or deactivating it. Select the appropriate option to initiate the deletion process. Be aware that some email providers may use different terminology, such as “close account”, “delete account”, or “deactivate account”.
  • Once you’ve selected the option to delete your account, you will likely be prompted to confirm your decision. This step is important because deleted email accounts typically can’t be recovered.
  • At this point, you may be asked to enter your password or passphrase again for security purposes. In some cases, the email service provider might also display a final warning about the consequences of deleting your account.
  • After confirming your decision, the email provider will begin the process of closing your account. Some services may have a grace period during which you can reactivate your account if you change your mind. However, after this period expires, the email account and all its data, including the primary email address, will be permanently deleted.

How Marketers Use Email Addresses

In the early days of the Internet, it was a common practice for marketers to buy lists of harvested email addresses as a quick way to reach a large audience. Unfortunately, the lists often contained the email addresses of people who had not given explicit consent to receive marketing communications – and it wasn’t long before spam became a problem at both individual and corporate levels.

Today, ethical and reputable marketers use permission marketing strategies. This requires them to build their email lists with opt-in addresses from people who have consented to be contacted.

This shift is largely due to stricter regulations around data privacy (such as GDPR in Europe and the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States) and the recognition that consent-based marketing leads to higher user engagement and conversion rates.

How to Find an Email Address

The question of whether it’s legal for marketers to look for someone’s email address in order to send them a cold email (unsolicited commercial email) largely depends on the recipient’s jurisdiction.

Even in circumstances when sending an unsolicited commercial message is permissible, locating an email address can be a multi-step process that often requires a bit of research –  and sometimes creative thinking. Here’s how someone might go about it:

For a Business:

  • Check the Business’ Official Website: Look for sections like “Contact Us,” “About Us,” or “Customer Service,” and look for an email address.
  • Check the Business’s Social Media Profiles: Many companies are active on LinkedIn and Twitter. Check to see if their user profiles include an email address.
  • Query the Business on Google: Google search engine results pages (SERPs) often list business contact information, including email addresses.
  • Search Online for Press Releases: Businesses sometimes list contact information, including email addresses, in press releases.

For an Individual:

  • Search for the Individual’s Personal or Professional Website: If the individual has a personal blog or professional website, their contact information might include an email address.
  • Query the Individual’s LinkedIn Profile: Check to see if the person has included their email address in their contact info.
  • Alumni Directories: If you know where the individual attended school, check to see if their email address is included in the organization’s alumni directory.
  • Online People Search Tools: There are various free and paid online tools and services designed to find people’s contact information, but this approach to finding an email address without the recipient’s consent can be risky.

It’s important to note that while searching for an individual’s email address is legal, contacting them without their consent for business solicitation purposes could potentially infringe on their privacy rights and lead to legal issues, especially if the information is used inappropriately in accordance with the recipient’s jurisdiction.

Is it Legal to Purchase Email Address Lists?

The question of whether or not it is legal to purchase email address lists also depends on the recipient country’s laws and regulations.

In some jurisdictions, it may be legal to purchase and use email lists to send piggyback emails, as long as the individuals on the owner’s list have given their consent to receive communications from third parties. The problem is that it’s not easy to verify people’s consent.

Today, it is more cost-effective for marketers to build all their email lists organically. This way, the company will be able to document explicit consent and compliance with all legal regulations and standards.

Email Address Safety

Email Address Safety

Unfortunately, threat actors today still buy and sell email addresses on the dark web to engage in malicious activities like phishing.

They have also been known to set up fake websites or surveys that prompt users to enter their email addresses, seemingly for legitimate purposes.

Many times, the acquired email addresses are bundled with personal information from other sources to facilitate spear phishing and business email compromise (BEC) attacks.

To protect email addresses and reduce the risk of them being misused, it’s important to take the following steps:

  • Always enable two-factor authentication (2FA) if allowed.
  • Use a virtual private network (VPN) for public wireless access points.
  • Use strong, unique passwords for each email account.
  • Choose email security questions and answers that you can remember but aren’t easily guessable.
  •  If your email provider offers email login alerts or account activity log features, be sure to opt in and use them.
  • When you don’t want to give out your email address, consider creating a special email account for one-time use or acquiring a burner address.

What is a Burner Email Address?

A burner email address is a temporary email address that is used in place of a personal or permanent email address.

The concept of a burner email is similar to that of a burner phone – it’s meant to be used for a short period of time and then discarded. It’s not a fake email address, but it may self-destruct after a certain amount of time.

Burner email addresses can be obtained through email services like Guerrilla Mail, Temp Mail, and Burner Mail.

While it’s not illegal to use a burner email address, it’s important to understand the purpose and meaning of this type of email address – because the legal and ethical considerations depend on the purpose and manner in which a burner email address is used.

Ultimately, the only purpose of this type of disposable email address has to be to protect the user’s real (primary) email address.

If you are at all concerned about using a burner email address, you may want to consider using a single dedicated free email address from a well-regarded email provider for sign-ups you know you’ll only use once.

Burner Email Address vs. Alias Email Address

Unlike burner addresses that are used to hide the sender’s real identity, alias email addresses are typically set up by email administrators or superusers with admin privileges to forward multiple email addresses to the same inbox.

Alias email addresses allow corporate users who have multiple email addresses to control mail from all their addresses from a single email account.

Essentially, this type of email address defines additional email addresses that are linked to the user’s primary email account.

Deleting Alias Email Addresses

Unlike primary email addresses, alias email addresses are easy to delete. Here’s a general overview of how to delete an email alias for some common email systems:

Microsoft Outlook / Microsoft 365

  • Log into the admin center.
  • Navigate to Users > Active users or Groups > Shared mailboxes, depending on where the alias is set up.
  • Choose the user or shared mailbox that has the alias you want to remove.
  • Find the email alias settings, often under “Email addresses” or “Aliases”.
  • Remove the alias and save your changes.

Google Workspace (formerly G Suite)

  • Access the Google Admin console.
  • Go to Users or Groups if the alias is for a group.
  • Select the user or group with the alias.
  • In the user’s account page or group’s settings, find the section for aliases.
  • Remove the alias as needed.

Rackspace Email

  • Log into the Rackspace Email Admin Panel.
  • Navigate to the domain or the mailbox settings.
  • Locate the aliases configuration.
  • Delete the alias that you no longer need.

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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…