If you thought that all email addresses are the same, think again. There are five main types of email address and if you want to organize your email sensibly you should know the difference.
All email addresses are formatted the same way @ but what isn’t obvious are the different ways that email sent to an address is handled.
We’ll explain the basics of these types of addresses – it may seem a bit theoretical you’ll see how this knowledge can make your email setup much, much better.
We all know about mailboxes, each email address ends up at some type of mailbox (POP, IMAP, Web, Exchange Server etc). The type of mailbox doesn’t matter to the sender, you send a message and it ends up in a mailbox for the receiver to collect.
Many people still have a mailbox that’s supplied by their Internet Service provider. That’s immediately convenient but also ties you to that ISP, and the companies know that. If you want to change the way you connect to the Internet, one hurdle can be having to change all the places where your old email address is used.
The solution is to separate the email address given to the outside world from the mailbox. You can change mailbox at any time while your publicly disclosed email address stays the same. Gmail and Outlook.com give you much better mail services than any ISP.
Even better, get a custom mailbox using your own domain name. Microsoft Business Basic is a plan that does that, but there are many other mail providers around.
Which brings us to the second type of email address .. alias.
An alias email address is an address without a mailbox. Any messages to an alias address are automatically forwarded to another address or mailbox.
In other words, an alias is like a post office re-direction order. You ask your post office to intercept your letters and forward them to another address – an alias email address is an automatic email version of your post office.
The most common way to use an alias is to forward mail to an Internet providers mailbox. Give out your alias email address to people and you can change your mailbox and alias forwarding arrangements without disturbing your correspondents.
We’ve called it ‘forwarding’ but it’s not the same as when you click on Forward from your email program. In that type of forwarding the message comes from your mailbox and has ‘FW’ in front of the original subject. The sender doesn’t know the message has been re-directed.
Aliases do re-direction – which means the message isn’t changed at all (no ‘FW’). The incoming message is simply passed along to another address with no change to the visible parts of the message. When you get the message it’s still addressed to the alias address – not the final mailbox.
This is one reason why aliases are so powerful, since the TO address is the alias you can sort and filter incoming messages according to the alias they were sent to. Even though you grabbed them from one mailbox, the aliases give you a way to tell them apart.
Aliases can re-direct mail to any valid email address – not just within the same domain.
Fred manages a domain called FredDagg.com and has a mailbox called [email protected] with some alias addresses like:
Gumboot@FredDagg.com goes to Fred’s mailbox. Messages to this address trigger a rule in Outlook which highlights the messages. Gumboots are quite an obsession with Fred.
Freda@FredDagg.com is for Fred’s daughter, she prefers to use Gmail and her messages are directed to that account.
Savvy people have more than one alias or have their own domain with messages going to many aliases.