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**Update 27/4/2004** This is the synopsis of what has happened post team up with Yahoo. Basically talk21 has turned into Yahoo, but with a more unreliable sign in. Just join Yahoo mail instead. Compared to the old talk21 service, the new BT yahoo replacement has a much better interface and a slightly increased mailbox and seems a bit more reliable, so overall it seems like an improvement over the old talk21. However, a big disadvantage is that it no longer has POP or SMTP access unless you suscribe for their paid service. It's just a big advert for their paid service and not a particularly good one. The old review is still below
I'm writing this review of talk21 as I'm shocked and appalled that ciao still rates it in the top 5 free email providers. Having read some of the reviews I can understand why: most of the reviews that praise the talk21 service are over 2 years old. The current service is sadly lacking in anything to praise at all.
I have been using talk21 for over a year now since I left university and needed something to replace my university email. I looked around for a web email that I could use Outlook Express or Mozilla Mail to retrieve the messages from so I wouldn't have to keep continually logging on to get my emails. I used ciao to get suggestions and as talk21 had POP access to allow me to use Outlook Express and had a reasonably high rating I decided to try it.
Over one year’s usage, I have uncovered so many flaws that I decided to call it a day and move email address again, hassle that I could have done without. The flaws are bad enough to make it worthwhile though.
1) Ads Free email services have to fund themselves somehow, usually either by banner ads or the dreaded pop up adverts. However, talk21 is plagued by both, and far too many of them. You also get adverts when you log out, which you have to do to keep your account secure. This is just a mild irritation though.
2) Mozilla Talk21 seems designed for Internet Explorer only. My web browser of choice is Mozilla, which has excellent pop up ad blocking. I can't use it for talk21 as it doesn't let you log out and sometimes does not display the page very well. As Mozilla is closely related to Netscape, this is probably going to have similar problems.
3) Spam Ok, I realise that spam is going to affect most web email services, particularly the well known ones, and yes, the spam isn't as bad as on Hotmail. On the other hand, my talk21 account has got a lot of spam, and it isn't an address that I use freely on the web or chat rooms. I'm particularly concerned as it really doesn't have much in the way of spam blocking, and I have received quite a few virus laden spam emails. I didn't open the attachments and most people do have anti-virus software, but it is still a worry.
4) SMTP One of the selling points of talk21 is the POP access and SMTP, which basically lets you use mail programs to get your messages. The POP server, which allows you to retrieve your messages works reasonably well, but the SMTP server, which you use to send your messages, is very temperamental. I know this isn't a big problem because most internet service providers include an SMTP server but it can be irritating.
5) SMS Basically talk21 advertises being able to send free SMS and this is a big selling point in many of the pro-talk21 reviews. The free SMS service has been removed completely.
6) Reliability, Speed and Design I've grouped these together as these are the big problems with talk21.
The service is always breaking and not delivering my messages. It often takes over a day for the service to be back up, which isn't useful if you have an urgent email to send. If you want to send a formal, important email, you don't want to have to send a message asking if they have received the first email. It's also embarrassing when it does the opposite and sends three copies of the same email.
Talk21 is SO SLOW. It takes so long to do pretty much anything, delete or write messages, get to the next message, go to another folder or send a message. With sending your message, it often takes so long that coupled with the unreliability of the service you often wonder whether it's still trying to send the message or whether it's just not working at the moment. It's not just my connection as I've tried on many different computers and connections varying from dialup to fast broadband and there's no change.
The page design is so irritating. Part of the irritation comes from talk21 being backed by BT, from whom I expected a much slicker operation. The use of frames is badly thought out, the interface is not very user friendly and takes quite a while to get used to. It feels like a school kid just starting out on web design has put it together.
The only redeeming feature of talk21 is that it has quite a lot of storage space for your messages (5Mb). However for a product this bad, I'd be surprised if you used it. I haven't put all the little niggling points that make talk21 bad, as I would be here forever.
My recommended email account, which I have been using for a few months now is fastmail.fm which is absolutely excellent and I can't praise highly enough. On the other hand, pretty much anything has to be better than talk21.