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Feature Email is one of those internet services that, like it or not, we all have to use. Yet the underlying protocols have been around since before the invention of spam (the electronic sort, of course), and have little in the way of protection.

No junk mail. Pic: gajman, Flickr

Internet email is far from perfect, but unless you stay in a walled garden, it's all we really have

They've been tweaked and enhanced to provide support for things like attachments and rich text. They've had authentication bolted on, and been hidden behind web interfaces to make them look friendlier. But at heart, email is much the same as it's always been.

Some people eschew email these days in favour of messaging on sites like Facebook or Skype, because everyone they talk to is on there. Others, fearful of the potential for privacy breaches involved in using a web mail service, use encrypted online email servers.

Following the closure of Lavabit two years ago some of those seem on slightly shakier ground too. As The Reg's John Leyden reported in an article the same year, if it's useable, it's probably insecure.

When it comes to being able to send messages to arbitrary people online, we are still, effectively, stuck with internet email. Sure, you can overlay encryption, and you can sign messages. But, at heart, unless you want to stay inside someone else's walled garden, all you have is good old fashioned email.

And so, many people think, you may as well just stick with what you get from your internet provider, or use Gmail or one of the other free services, while trying not to think too hard about the strings attached.

Hushmail Inbox Small

Services like Hushmail are great - but offer most when you're contacting people on the same platform. Click for full size

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