Invasion of the privacy snatchers
For starters, Mail.com digs deeper into your personal life than other free Web e-mailers. When you register, it asks for your name, current e-mail address, and mailing address. On the upside, though, Mail.com lets you choose an e-mail alias with all kinds of phrases for your domain, the part of an address that comes after the @ sign, ranging from the boring mail.com or lawyer.com to the exotic seductive.com or mad.scientist.com.
If you find Yahoo's interface busy-looking, you'll go cross-eyed with Mail.com. So many ads squeeze into the main e-mail window, they squish Mail.com's navigational tools into a small frame at the left of the browser window. Your account's primary interface is only a bit cleaner: ads appear at the left, at the top, and even in the middle of the page. Ugh! However, if you're willing to part with $10, you can buy a year's worth of the ad-free version.
Missing in action
Once you finally reach your in-box, you can compose messages; attach as many as three files per message, totaling no more than 2MB; create folders to organize messages; move messages between folders; and sort mail by column headings, such as subject and date. Mail.com lets you grab mail from up to five POP 3 accounts, but it doesn't integrate with desktop e-mailers, as does Hotmail. By the way, Mail.com keeps your account active for 60 days between log-ins--twice as long as Hotmail does--but it bounces back incoming mail and deletes received messages and contacts in your address book if you don't use the service frequently.
Unfortunately, Mail.com is missing features offered by first-rate Web services such as Yahoo. Need the security of a virus sniffer to make you feel safe downloading attachments? Mail.com doesn't offer one. Like to proof your outgoing mail for typing goofs? Not going to happen here. Mail.com is missing a spelling checker, too. Want to import addresses from desktop clients, such as Eudora? No can do. Yearn to search for a specific message? Don't bother; there's no search tool at Mail.com.
Shoddy spam defense
It gets worse. Mail.com is also vulnerable to junk mail. Its antispam tool only lets you specify senders that you want to block, and you must enter a full address, so you can't stop spam that comes from multiple senders at the same domain. No surprise, then, that Mail.com eliminated exactly 0 percent of our incoming junk mail. Unlike the last time we looked at this service, however, Mail.com now prevents others from using either the Back button on your browser or the History tool to see your mail, assuming that you log out of Mail.com when you're through. Phew.
Thankfully, Mail.com's tech support is adequate. You'll find online help files--but no search tool to make it easier to find answers--as well as an e-mail link on the site to Mail.com's help desk.
Mail.com is the least reliable free e-mail service we tested. The tip-off: the help page entitled "When the Web site is down, will I lose my e-mail?" Mail.com kept us from our in-box once during our two-week, twice-per-day logon tests. That's better than the last time we reviewed the service, when it was down 20 percent of the time, but it's still unnerving.
Despite Mail.com's 10MB storage allowance, its skimpy features and glut of ads aren't palatable. Steer toward Yahoo Mail instead.