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In 2012, Gmail overtook Hotmail to become the most popular email provider in the world. Since claiming the crown, it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Today, the service boasts more than one billion users.

60 percent of mid-sized US companies and 92 percent of start-ups rely on it.

The other go-to free email provider The Best Free Email Accounts You Need to Consider The Best Free Email Accounts You Need to Consider Everyone knows about Gmail. If you think that's the best free email account out there, you're underestimating all the other services. You have options and we have the details. Read More is Yahoo Mail. Sure, its user numbers pale into insignificance compared with Gmail (it had around 250 million at the start of 2017), but it’s still one of the most recognizable global email brands.

But what other alternatives are out there? If you don’t want a Gmail or Yahoo account, what choices do you have?

Let’s take a look at six of the most popular free email providers outside the “big two.”

1. Microsoft Outlook

Outlook terminology is confusing Hotmail No More! Microsoft Outlook Email Services Explained Hotmail No More! Microsoft Outlook Email Services Explained Stop searching for Hotmail! The terminology surrounding the various Microsoft Outlook email services is confusing. If you no longer know whether it's called Outlook web app, Outlook Online, or other, let us explain. Read More . Microsoft has done a poor job of differentiating between its free email accounts, its free modern Windows app, and its Office 365 app. Luckily, if you just want a free email account, you don’t need to get bogged down in the details; just head to outlook.com and sign up for an @outlook.com email address.

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The service has surpassed Yahoo to become the second most popular free email provider in the world. In mid-2016, Microsoft reported it had more than 450 million active users.

Using an Outlook account comes with significant benefits. Because it’s operated by Microsoft, it’s heavily integrated into the Windows 10 operating system. It also works seamlessly with the Outlook Office 365 app Microsoft Office What? A Guide to the Office Suite Ecosystem Microsoft Office What? A Guide to the Office Suite Ecosystem Everyone knows what Microsoft Office is, right? Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote -- simple. What about Office Online, Office Mobile, Office 2016, and Office 365? The Office suite has become complex. We'll unravel it for... Read More .

If you decide to use either the web client or the desktop client, you’re in good company. 16 percent of all email sent is opened on one of the two apps.

2. GMX Mail

GMX Mail is a subsidiary of United Internet, one of Germany’s largest internet service providers. The free mail service has been gaining in popularity over the last few years, but it’s been around since 1997.

Despite only having 11 million active monthly users, it still comfortably makes the top ten of free email providers in terms of user numbers. It’s a surprising statistic, and one which reveals the almost unassailable popularity of services like Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook.

Feature-wise, you can expect 1 GB of file storage, a 50 MB attachment limit, and support for both IMAP and POP. Most interestingly, it offers unlimited email storage; you’ll never run out of space again. Unfortunately, it lacks an RSS reader and conversation view.

3. Zoho Mail

Zoho Mail is one of the newest providers on the list. It’s only been in existence since October 2008.

In its short life, the service has quickly developed into one of the best free email providers outside the Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook troika. Driven by an ad-free web client (even for free users), it’s grown to more than 10 million active users in just nine years.

The app offers everything you’d expect from a free email provider, including multi-level folders, conversation views, drag-and-drop inbox organizing, and filters. One omission is an integrated video chat tool.

Zoho Mail is part of a larger office productivity suite. The service is tightly integrated with Zoho Docs – a Google Docs competitor that lets you create, edit, and collaborate on text, presentation, and spreadsheet documents.

4. iCloud

iCloud represents Apple’s venture into free email. Most Mac, iPad, and iPhone users have an account. iCloud itself is a holistic cloud service. It underpins other Apple services such as Find My iPhone, Photo Stream, Keychain, and iCloud Drive What is iCloud Drive & How Does it Work? What is iCloud Drive & How Does it Work? Confused about what makes iCloud Drive different to Apple's other cloud services? Let us show you what it can do, and how you can make the most of it. Read More . Mail is just one facet of the app.

The app boasts 720 million users, but it’s not clear how many of them are using an @iCloud.com email address.

Like Outlook.com and Microsoft, iCloud integrates seamlessly with the default Apple mail client How to Make Apple Mail a Better Desktop Email Client How to Make Apple Mail a Better Desktop Email Client Take the time to set up Apple's boring email client just right, and make email processing as painless as possible. Read More on both Mac and iOS. On mobile, you can add any number of email providers to the app. On the web client, you can only access your @icloud.com address.

All iCloud users get 5 GB of storage for free. In addition to documents, photos, and other data, any emails you receive count against the limit. As such, you might need to pay for more storage if iCloud is your provider of choice.

5. AOL Mail

AOL Mail is the granddad of free email services. It went live in March 1993, making it three years older than Hotmail, four years older than Yahoo Mail, and almost ten years older than Gmail.

Because of its age, it has a huge user base. Nevertheless, the numbers have been decreasing in recent years. In 2006, it had 50 million active monthly users, and as recently as 2010 it was the third-largest email provider in the world.

Today, the number of active users is down to 25 million. However, experts expect numbers to start increasing again soon thanks to Verizon’s March 2017 decision to close its own in-house email service and move all its users to AOL instead.

Just because AOL Mail is a recognizable brand name with millions of users, you shouldn’t necessarily rush to sign up. In recent years, several pieces of research have hinted at “email bias”. Potential employers are less likely to hire you if you have an AOL or Hotmail address; it suggests you’re stuck in 1996.

6. Elude

I’m going to leave you with something a bit different. Rather than listing another popular mainstream email provider, you should give Elude a chance. Elude is rapidly becoming the most popular email provider on the darknet.

Despite only launching in mid-2017, it’s been hoovering up privacy-conscious users who are desperate to find another secure, anonymous, and simple email provider The 3 Most Secure & Encrypted Email Providers Online The 3 Most Secure & Encrypted Email Providers Online Fed up with government surveillance? Concerned your emails might be read by third parties? If so, it's worth looking at an encrypted email solution to protect your messages. Read More after the collapse of SIGAINT.

At its peak, SIGAINT had 400,000 users. It’s safe to assume Elude will ultimately have similar numbers.

Elude does not use JavaScript, does not require any phone numbers or other forms of ID at sign up, and encrypts all server traffic.

Because it has a .onion URL, you can only access Elude through the TOR browser.

Which Email Provider Do You Prefer?

In this article, I’ve introduced you to six of the most popular email providers other than Gmail and Yahoo. Each has different benefits, but they all have the common theme of being highly popular among certain subsets of users.

Now it’s your turn to add to the conversation. Which email provider do you use? Did they make this list? If not, tell us why it deserves to be mentioned.

As always, you can leave all your comments and suggestions in the comments below.

Image Credit: Email Inbox Electronic Communication Graphics Concept via Shutterstock

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  1. Catherine
    July 23, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    I have an email account with StartMail. The developer is from the US, and brought the technology to the Netherlands where the company doesn't ever keep the user's IP; and they would never provide any information about their clients to the US Government Agencies! It is not free, costs $60 per annum but it is worth it. Also StartPage is my search engine and I was extremely happy to get rid of google, and the rest of the group. StartPage is free, and I get more information from them then I ever received from google and others..

  2. Whew
    July 19, 2017 at 8:34 am

    Congrats everyone. Nobody actually linked to anything, but instead only writes text. In the internet, which works thru links. In 2017.

    "mail.com" belongs to GMX/1&1/United Internet/web.de

  3. RANDALL
    July 18, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    one that has everything such as NEWS, ECT..., SOMETHING THIS NEW GENERATION KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT.......

  4. step
    July 16, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    tutanota

  5. rspl
    June 28, 2017 at 8:28 am

    there's emailn.de which reminds a little of gmx and/or web.de (i think it's a german service but there should be a language option on their page) - it has a free and a paid plan.

  6. Anonimus
    June 28, 2017 at 3:38 am

    Mail.ru

  7. kars89
    June 27, 2017 at 8:13 am

    Proton Mail - One of the best email provider for privacy-conscious users.

  8. Karen
    June 26, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    I have an AOL email acct that I only use for one purpose. It has a clean interface and I get nearly zero spam. The email search is crap however. I know the email is there but the search only works sometime.

  9. flames
    June 26, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    i use mail.com. it offers 200+ domains you can choose from. and i love how simple it is.

    • Ron Ablang
      August 1, 2017 at 1:30 pm

      Me too. I've been using Mail.com since the mid-90's.