Email Address Definition & Meaning

An email address is a designation for an electronic mailbox that sends and receives messages, known as email, on a computer network. Since the 1980s, all email addresses follow the same format: @. An example is below.

[email protected]

On the far right, the .com component represents the top level domain (TLD) for the email address. It could also be replaced with .org, .edu, or another entity. Commonly-used TLDs include:

  • .com: Used by entities engaged in commerce
  • .org: Used by nonprofit organizations
  • .edu: Used by educational institutions
  • .net: Used by network providers
  • .gov: Used by governmental agencies

The domain name is the specific name of the organization. This could be any name, but familiar ones include Google.com or Target.com. The combination of the organization name and TLD is the address entered into a browser to go to the organization’s website. The @ (pronounced “at”) symbol is the connector between the domain and the person who the email address belongs to. In this case, the person is Jane Doe. When an email is sent to this address, the message is sent to Jane Doe at the domain name.

Domain names can be commercial or personal. Popular email providers for business or personal use include Gmail, Yahoo, and Microsoft Outlook. Businesses and websites can purchase custom email addresses for their domain through one of these options or through their website hosting provider.

In early email systems, a wide variety of non-internet email address formats were used before the [email protected] form was instituted in the 1980s. The earliest email addresses had to identify one user from another on one homogenous system, such as a minicomputer or mainframe. The address was typically the user’s login name on the system, such as 432654,6564 when using CompuServ, which was one of the largest online services that supported many types of electronic mail.

How to create an email address

To create a personal email address that will not change as you change schools, jobs, or internet service providers, create an account with an email provider of your choosing, such as Gmail or Yahoo! Mail. The email provider will often ask for your first and last name to create your unique email address. Typically, users will use their name in the email address, so the mail will be easily recognizable. Create a password in order to securely access your emails, and you’re set.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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