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 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 who she doesn't see very often.

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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 lots of useful things like apply for jobs, receive receipts for things you buy online and news 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 Microsoft's Outlook. You can go to one of their websites to create an account for free.

Using an email provider means you can access your emails from any device 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

Like a postal address, no two email addresses are the same. Each email account must be unique.

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.

An example of an email address with the @ symbol highlighted

The @ symbol

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

An example of an email address with the email provider highlighted

The email provider

The last part of an 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 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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Sorry, that's not correct.

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Sorry, that's not correct.

Please have another go.


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Yes! Well done. You can see it's made up of the different parts that form a unique email address.

A woman happily looks at her mobile phone

Well done.

You've completed 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.