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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 in a form on a Web site.
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 visits the Mailinator site and enters the recipient name. There are no passwords and there is no way to keep others from seeing the messages, 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 messages upon reading them or allow the system to auto-delete them after a few hours. Mail cannot be sent from the Mailinator site.
All email sent to Mailinator is automatically deleted after a day, or 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 ("email@example.com") will also have the cloaked address M8R-as16dx ("M8Rfirstname.lastname@example.org"). 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.
Emails may be viewed in unmodified "text view" mode. Mailboxes may also be accessed directly via the URL, as in http://MailboxName.mailinator.com.
A few sites might block the sending of email to the Mailinator domain, or services similar to it, but Mailinator provides alternate domains to 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 for which Mailinator will receive messages. 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, forcing the Mailinator system to delete messages from other mailboxes earlier than usual.
According to the Mailinator Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), plain text messages are best, as HTML is filtered. Images, attachments and styles are simply stripped away. However, when a message is displayed, a "text view" can be selected, displaying the message source code. The source code can be copied to a local text file with the .eml extension and opened for viewing with a mail client program that is capable of doing so, displaying formatted HTML mail just as it was sent.