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Mailinator is a free disposable email address service created in 2003 by Paul Tyma. The idea is to let a user invent a new email address on the fly, whenever needed, for instance while filling a form on a website.
Mailinator will accept mail for any email address addressed to any domain that arrives at the mailinator servers, and allows anyone to read it. There is no need to register for an account or authenticate via a password. It is intended to provide users with an anonymous and temporary email address to help reduce Inbox spam.
Arriving email with a specific recipient name "creates" accounts at Mailinator. It is not required that an account or mailbox with the recipient's name be created beforehand.
To check received mail, a user goes to the Mailinator website and enters the recipient name. There are no passwords and there is no way to keep others from seeing the email, except by choosing a very-hard-to-guess username (usernames can be up to 25 characters in length) or using the "cloaked" address for that username (as explained below). Therefore, Mailinator is not intended and should not be used for sensitive information. Users can delete email upon reading it or allow the system to auto-delete it after a few hours. Mail cannot be sent from the Mailinator website.
All email sent to mailinator is automatically deleted after a day (sometimes sooner) whether or not the user reads it.
Mailinator has introduced a "cloaking" feature in which every recipient name has a cloaked identifier starting with "M8R-" and a string of characters. Mail may be sent to either the original recipient name or the cloaked name. Mail will only go to the mailbox for the original recipient name, and the cloaked address will always have an empty mailbox. For example, the recipient name wikipedia ("firstname.lastname@example.org") will also have the cloaked address M8R-as16dx ("M8Remail@example.com"). Mail sent to the cloaked address M8R-as16dx will go to the destination mailbox wikipedia, while the M8R-as16dx mailbox will always be empty. There is no way to translate the cloaked address into the destination address.
A few websites might block the sending of e-mail to the Mailinator domain, or services similar to it, but Mailinator provides alternate domains which work around this ban in most cases. In addition, a domain owner can set up the MX records to point to the Mailinator server, in effect adding an unlimited number of domains that Mailinator will receive messages for. This is expressly allowed by Mailinator.
A significant difference of Mailinator compared to regular email services is that received messages are kept for only a few hours. As new messages arrive, the older messages are deleted to make room for them, resulting in messages being available for a variable amount of time.
In addition, messages may be dropped silently for a number of reasons, making it unwise to use Mailinator for emails that cannot be re-sent to another address.
Each mailbox also has a ten-message limit, which means that choosing a unique address is important. Presumably this is to prevent a flood of mail to a single address from forcing the Mailinator system to delete messages from other mailboxes earlier than usual.
Finally, according to the Mailinator FAQ, "Plain text is best, html is filtered. Images, attachments, and fancy stuff are simply stripped away. But, on every page showing an email, there is a 'text-view' link where you can see the email PRECISELY as mailinator received it. Headers, dirty words, mime-encoded images, you name it."
- "Mailinator Blog: Your own private Mailinator". January 21, 2008.