Losing an e-mail address, at the very least, is a nuisance. You can drop right out of the loop and miss important contacts with friends and family members. At the very worst, it can be a disaster that damages business or personal financial affairs. Dollars can vanish into cyberspace along with lost e-mails.
Yet people lose their e-mail addresses all the time. They change jobs, leave school, switch to a different Internet service provider (ISP) with lower prices or better features, or see their ISP go out of business or be bought by another firm.
Fortunately, there are ways of keeping the same e-mail address for life.
For people who want absolute certainty that their e-mail address will never change, there's only one solution. Register your own domain name on the Internet. A domain name is an address on the World Wide Web. It is "toledoblade.com," for instance, in The Blade's web address.
Next week's column describes the simple process for registering a domain name. It can give people and businesses distinctive e-mail addresses. Joe Smith who owns Smith Plumbing, for instance, would get his e-mail at email@example.com. Smith also could put a web site at www.smithplumbing.com. Jen K. Jonis would get hers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two other approaches are simpler, but don't offer as much assurance that you'll have an e-mail address for life. They involve using a Web-based e-mail service or an e-mail forwarding service.
Scores of sites on the World Wide Web offer the services without charge. The sites use advertising to stay in business. The sites have plenty of ads, which take time to load and often slow down access to the site and your mail.
Web-based e-mail sites let you create an e-mail account at the site. Your address remains valid for as long as the site stays in business. You access your e-mail account by going to the site with Internet Explorer or Netscape, and entering your password and user ID.
Accessing via the Web is another big advantage of Web-based mail. It lets you read and send e-mail anywhere from any computer with Internet access.
Hotmail (www.hotmail.com) was the first Web-based e-mail service and remains by far the biggest. Yahoo! is another popular service (http://mail.yahoo.com) Search for "web-based e-mail" to find plenty of others.
Pick a site that seems to have the best chances of staying in business for the long run. That usually means big, well-known sites. Then simply go to the site and use the fill-in-the-blanks screen to register for an account and obtain a password and user ID.
You can pick - or try to pick - a favorite e-mail address. Jen R. Smith, for instance, might want email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Many of the popular names are taken, so be flexible. Jen may have to settle for email@example.com.
A personalized e-mail service is a great option for individuals who want to emphasize something about their occupation or lifestyle. Dr. Jen K. Rowe, for instance, might want an address like firstname.lastname@example.org. Brad C. Smith, the engineer, might like email@example.com.
E-mail forwarding services automatically pass e-mail sent to your old address to a permanent address. Bigfoot.com (www.bigfoot.com) is one of the most popular forwarding services. For dozens of others, search for "e-mail forwarding service."
Just go to the forwarding service's web page. Register, pick a permanent e-mail address, and get your password and user ID. At Bigfoot, Jen R. Smith's e-mail address would be in the format, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Woods is the Blade's science editor.