What is email?


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What is email

A tablet with a notification of unread email

What's coming up

'Email' stands for 'Electronic mail'. It works a lot like normal letters or mail, but it's online. It allows you to send messages and photos to people instantly - and for free - using the internet.

In this course, we'll meet Salma. Salma has recently moved and wants to keep in touch with friends that she doesn't see very often. Salma gets talking to her friend Maryam, who tells her she's been using email to keep in contact with her own friends and family.

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A croped view of an email menu with the compose button selected

What is email used for?

As well as keeping in touch with friends and family, you can use your email account to do loads of useful things like apply for jobs, get receipts for things you buy online and get updates from your favourite websites.

Email providers

An email provider is a web-based service that lets you create an account you can use to send, receive and store your emails. Three of the largest email providers are Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook. You can go to one of their websites to create an account for free.

Using an email provider you can access your emails from any computer that is connected to the internet.

A computer screen shows various logos of email providers
An example of Maryam's email address

What it looks like

Salma's friend Maryam uses Yahoo Mail. Let's take a look at the different parts of her email address.

An example of an email address with the username highlighted

Unique username

The first part is the unique username. This is something you can choose for yourself.

Maryam has chosen to use her first name and her second name but you can use whatever you like, as long as it's not something that's already been used by someone else.

Like Maryam, you should only use small letters to avoid confusion.

An example of an email address with the @ symbol highlighted

The '@' symbol

The next part is the @ symbol (pronounced 'at'). This makes it clear that this is an email address rather than a website address or name.

An example of an email address with the email provider highlighted

Your email provider

The last part of a email address is the name of the email provider, followed by something like .com, .com.au or .org

This part of your email address is like putting your street name and area on your postal address – it simply tells people which email provider they are sending the message to.

Email address format

Which one of these email addresses is the correct format?


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A woman happily looks at her mobile phone


Well done, you've come to the end of the ‘What is email?' activity.

Now Salma can see how using email would be useful for her, she's decided to set up an account. In the next activity, 'Setting up an account', we'll see how she does this.

If you're still unsure about anything in this activity, you can scroll up to read it again, or come back and redo it any time you like.