A little while back, we posted an article on ways to stay anonymous online. I recommended that you try InPrivate Browsing in Internet Explorer and Incognito Mode in Google Chrome, for example. Another useful tip was to use disposable email addresses, because it meant that the forum, website, or online business wouldn’t get your real contact information when all you needed was a registration or an activation code.
The good news is that it’s actually very easy to get a temporary email address that you can use exactly for those kinds of purposes. In fact, there are several free websites where you can get a “throwaway” email address that will automatically expire after a certain period of time, giving you web-based access to the online inbox for inbound messages. You can then activate your forum account, get the download code, or do whatever else it’s that you wanted to do without giving out your real email.
10 Minute Mail
I previously mentioned 10 Minute Mail in my original post on staying anonymous online, but it’s certainly worth mentioning again. The interface is automatic: as soon as you go to the website, you are automatically assigned a random email address and you are shown its inbox. The email automatically self-destructs in ten minutes unless you click to extend the time.
If you need more than ten minutes and you don’t want to keep hitting the “extend my time” button, then Fake Inbox might be a better solution. It works in exactly the same way, but the randomly assigned temporary email address expires in 60 minutes. If you’re done with it earlier than that, there’s a button to delete the email address immediately.
One of the key advantages that Guerrilla Mail has over other temporary email address sites is that you can also use it for outgoing mail. While you can reply to inbound messages with 10 Minute Mail or Fake Inbox, you can’t compose a brand new message. With Guerrilla Mail, you can. You can also set your own custom inbox ID.
Going even further than the 60 minutes of Fake Inbox is Airmail, which allows you to maintain your temporary email address for however long you keep your browser window open to their page. It checks for new messages every 10 seconds. Even if you close the browser window or tab, you can revisit the site — as long as your cookies are intact — and your inbox will remain active for up to 24 hours.
If you’re not as concerned about privacy, Mailinator could be a possibility. The email addresses don’t actually expire, since they’re available perpetually and publicly. Anyone who can figure out the username (there’s no password) can access that inbox. Not surprisingly, common “fake” names like “username” or “notmyemail” get used by a lot of people and you can see all the message history. For this reason, it’s not really recommended if the inbound messages are going to contain any private links or data.
The idea with MailCatch is much the same. There’s no need for registration and you can come up with whatever email address you want on the mailcatch.com domain. You go to the site to check the inbox and there is even an RSS feed if you prefer to use it that way. There are premium options for mail forwarding and POP3 access too, giving you added flexibility.
Melt Mail doesn’t actually provide you with a new inbox that you can view through your browser. Instead, it creates a temporary email address that will then automatically forward all the messages it receives to your real email address. The temporary email forwarding can be set for a period of 3, 6, 12, or 24 hours. After that, Melt Mail deletes your real email address from its database, along with the forwarding request.
Image credit: RambergMediaImages / Flickr