Electronic Mail (Email)

1. Introduction: The Electronic mail often abbreviated as E-mail, e-mail or simply mail. E-mail enables us in exchanging digital messages. E-mail can be termed as the fastest post office which is the most commonly used service of the internet. The messages can be sent instantaneously to any individual who has an e-mail address or to many people at the same time.

The foundation for today's e-mail service was created in the early ARPANET in extension to the File Transfer Protocol (FTP). An E-mail sent in the early 1970s looked very similar to one sent on the Internet today but today it is carried by the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP).


2. E-mail Address: The E-mail address has three basic components. The “username”, the “@” sign and the “users’ location or domain”. Each E-mail address goes from the specific to the general. A typical example is “lis-forum@ncsi.iisc.ernet.in”. Here

lis-forum: It is the user id.

@: It is a separator between user id and different organizational level of the institution.

ncsi.iisc.ernet.in: The ncsi.iisc.ernet.in portion after “@” sign are the level of the domain name. Levels of the domains are nothing but different organizational levels. In this example there are four levels to the domain name.

ncsi: It stands for National Centre for Scientific Information.

iisc: It stands for Indian Institute of Science. The National Centre for Scientific Information is a part of the Indian Institute of Science.

ernet: It stands for the Education and Research Network. The IISC is covered under ERNET.

in: It stands for India.

            The above one is a very complex example of E-mail address. However, our mostly used e-mail address has only three to five components. For example, in the badanbarman@gmail.com E-mail id, “badanbarman” is the user id, “@” is the separator, “gmail” stands for Google Mail, which is the e-mail service provider, and “.com” means Gmail is the commercial organization.


3. Anatomy of E-mail Message: Messages in an E-mail consists of three major sections. The message header, the message body, and the attachment. The first two form the E-mail’s content.

a) Header: The message header contains control information, including, minimally, an originator's E-mail address and one or more recipient addresses. Usually, additional information is added, such as a subject header field structured into fields like summary, sender, receiver, and other information about the E-mail. The message header generally includes at least the following fields:

i) From: It includes the E-mail address and, optionally, the name of the sender who sends the e-mail. The field is filled up automatically when a message is sent.

ii) To: Here the E-mail address(es) and, optionally, name(s) of the message's recipient(s) is/are included. It indicates primary recipient (more than one allowed). The “To:” field is similar to the addressing at the top of a conventional letter which is delivered according to the address on the outer envelope.

iii) Carbon Copy (CCc: The Carbon copy (Cc) is used for secondary E-mail recipients. The Cc can be compared with that of “Copy to” field of the traditional letters.

iv) Blind Carbon Copy (Bcc): The Bcc is used to make the data individual to other recipient.

Many E-mail clients will mark E-mail in the inbox differently depending on whether the addresses are in the “To:” or “Cc:” list.

v) Subject: Subject means a brief summary of the message.

vi) Date: It reflects the local time and date when the message was written. Many E-mail clients fill this automatically when the E-mail was sent. The recipient's client may then display the time in the format and time zone local to her/him.

vii) Message-ID: It is also an automatically generated field used to prevent multiple deliveries and for reference in “In-Reply-To”. The In-Reply-To is used to link related messages together.

b) Body: The E-mail clients generally allow the use of either plain text or HyperText Markup Language (HTML) for the message body at the option of the user. HTML E-mail messages often include an automatically-generated plain text copy as well, for reason of compatibility. The body sometimes contains a signature block at the end. This is exactly the same as the body of a regular letter. The header is separated from the body by a blank line.

            Advantages of HTML extend to the ability to include inline links and images, to set apart previous messages in block quotes, wrap naturally on any display, use emphasis such as underlines and italics, and change font styles. Its disadvantages include- the increased size of the E-mail, privacy concerns about web bugs, abuse of HTML E-mail as a vector for phishing attacks and the spread of malicious software. Mailing lists commonly insist that all posts to be made in plain-text for all the above reasons. Again, a significant number of readers using text-based E-mail clients. So, avoiding HTML can guarantee delivering the E-mail.

c) Attachments: The attachments are the files that are sent through the E-mail. Many E-mail systems does not allow the software or the file that contains “setup.exe” to be sent through E-mail as attachments.


4. Advantages of E-mail: There are numerous ways in which people have changed the way they communicate. E-mail is certainly one of them, particularly when others live at a distance.  E-mail provides a way to exchange information between two or more people with no set-up costs and with little or no expense.  With real time communication by meetings or phone calls, participants have to work on the same schedule, and each participant must spend the same amount of time in the meeting or call. E-mail allows each participant in controlling their schedule independently.

Most information or business workers today spend from one to two hours of their working day on E-mail- reading, ordering, sorting, and writing.

The advantages of e-mail over post offices are –

a) High Speed of Delivery: The E-mails are delivered instantly- within 15 seconds in most of the cases.

b) Low Cost: In E-mail no cost of paper envelop and postal system are involved.

c) Surety of the Delivery: The system provides surety of the delivery of mail because if the mail is not delivered due to some reason then the undelivered E-mail bounces back to the sender, mostly within minutes.

d) Provision of Attachment: The E-mail also allows attaching word processing document, picture, graphic, video, etc.

e) Environment Friendly: The E-mail is environment friendly as it does not depend on the use of paper- so there is no need to cut a tree.


5. Disadvantages of E-mail: Some of the common disadvantages with emails are-

a) Information Overload: Email is a push technology – the sender controls who receives the information. Convenient availability of mailing lists and use of copy all can lead to people receiving unwanted or irrelevant information of no use to them. Again, because of the negligible cost of sending email, spammers can send hundreds of millions of email messages each day over an inexpensive Internet connection leading to information overload.

b) Flaming: Flaming occurs when a person sends a message with angry or antagonistic content. Flaming is assumed to be more common today because of the ease and impersonality of email communications: confrontations in person or via telephone require direct interaction, where social norms encourage civility, whereas typing a message to another person is an indirect interaction, so civility may be forgotten.

c) Email Bankruptcy: E-mail bankruptcy also known as email fatigue, email bankruptcy is when a user ignores a large number of email messages after falling behind in reading and answering them. The reason for falling behind is often due to information overload and a general sense there is so much information that it is not possible to read it all.

d) Email Worms:  A computer worm is a malicious software program that can self-replicate on computers or via computer networks – without the knowledge of the user. Because each subsequent copy of the virus or computer worm can also self-replicate, infections can spread very rapidly.  Email worms use e-mail as a way of replicating themselves into vulnerable computers.

e) Email Spoofing: Email spoofing occurs when the header information of an email is designed to make the message appear to come from a known or trusted source. Spam and phishing emails typically use such spoofing to mislead the recipient about the origin of the message. It is often used as a trick to collect personal information, bank details, credit card information and so on.

f) Privacy Concerns: E-mail messages are generally not encrypted. Further, the E-mails have to go through intermediate computers before reaching their destination, meaning it is relatively easy for others to intercept and read messages. Many Internet Service Providers (ISP) even store copies of email messages on their mail servers before they are delivered. The backups of these can remain for up to several months on their server, despite deletion from the mailbox.


6. E-mail Service Providers: One can open a free E-mail account in the following E-mail service providers. Out of the list, Gmail won the race for its storage capacity as well as many more advanced features it offers.


Sl. No.




AOL Mail












Yahoo! Mail


Table: Email Service Providers


7. Conclusion: Much of the business world relies upon communications between people who are not physically in the same building, area or even country; setting up and attending an in-person meeting, telephone call, or conference call can be inconvenient, time-consuming, and costly. Email provides a way to exchange information between two or more people with no set-up costs and that is generally far less expensive than physical meetings or phone calls. E-mail has become the most widely used medium of communication within the business world. Email has become widely used on smart phones. Mobile apps for email increase accessibility to the medium.

How to Cite this Article?

APA Citation, 7th Ed.:  Barman, B. (2020). A comprehensive book on Library and Information Science. New Publications.

Chicago 16th Ed.:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. Guwahati: New Publications, 2020.

MLA Citation 8th Ed:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. New Publications, 2020.