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Email - How does it work?

Suppose you're using webmail to write a message to a friend of yours. You type up the message in your web browser and hit send. Where does it go?

After you hit the send button your web browser transfers your message to your email provider.

At that point the email company looks at the "To" address and figures out where to route your message. It does so by locating the correct Mail Exchange, the location to which your message should be sent. Each email company has one or more Mail Exchanges, places that send and receive email addresses.

Now your email company sends the message through the internet to your friend's mail exchange, potentially bouncing several different locations before arriving at its destination, your friend's email service.

When your friend checks his/her mail the message is waiting. Amazingly enough, this whole process can take a matter of a few seconds.

What if you use an email program like Outlook instead of Webmail? The only major difference is that Outlook talks to your email provider instead of your web browser.

What if I'm using my company's email system? Everything works pretty much the same except for the fact that your email provider is likely the place where you work rather than an email provider on the internet.

Are emails secure and private? Nope. Most emails are like open postcards and can potentially be read along the way. Additionally, many employers record and retain email messages, potentially for years.

Pretty simple, right?

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