It can change at an Internet Service Provider's whim or even disappear entirely. Once popular local Internet addresses like clark.net, digex.com or home.com, closed their e-post office doors long ago. Is there any way you can get a permanent e-mail address and avoid losing messages or even contact with friends, family and co-workers? Well, yes, but there are no perfect fixes.
There was a time when companies advertising permanent e-mail addresses were commonplace, but many companies that once offered such services, like ValiseMail and Permanent E-Mail Address Company have gone out of business. As David Ferris, chief analyst of e-mail and groupware research house, Ferris Research, says. ''There is absolutely a real need for permanent e-mail addresses. But, while there are places that will create vanity press addresses, many of these will go under.''
You also can get an e-mail address from some of the better-known, and hopefully more long lasting, Internet companies like Yahoo and, soon, Google. But, even these companies change their rules and some, like AltaVista, have ended up dropping e-mail services entirely.
Even telephone companies though can change their users' addresses, as former Bell Atlantic, now Verizon, customers remember.
One approach for college graduates is to check to see if your school or its alumni association offers an e-mail address. After all georgetown.edu isn't likely to be disappearing anytime soon. Not all schools offer these services though. For example, the University of Maryland doesn't offer this service.
If your old school doesn't work for you, perhaps a group you belong to offers an e-mail address. Professional associations, like the IEEE, sometime offer e-mail for their current members.
Probably the most popular way to get an address that will last forever, or close enough for government work, is to get a domain of your own.
Simply getting a domain name, a.k.a. parking, doesn't mean you get a Web or e-mail server. All if means, in real estate terms, is that, you've bought a lot to build on. Web servers, e-mail, and all the rest are the house.
There are two steps to getting a domain to call your very own. The first is to go to a domain registry to claim your domain name. These are companies like Verisign, Domain Direct and Dotster that track domain names and give you the tools you need to grab your own domain name.
For a domain with one of the main extensions (.com, .net and .org) you can expect to pay from $5 up to $35 per year. Verisign, the oldest and best-known domain registry is also the most expensive.
A domain name alone is just an address. If you want to get mail there, you need to get mail services. Some companies offer both registry and hosting services -- almost always Web and mail hosting -- and will offer discount pricing if you use them to both register your domain and host it.
You should start your hunt by checking out the registries you're thinking about using at RegSelect, an independent guide to domain registrars. For Web hosting companies, you can see what people have to say about them at WebHostingTalk Forum, a popular Web host discussion site.
When shopping for a site that will host ''MineAllMineHaHaHa.com,'' you should look for ones that offer easy Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP) and Post Office Protocol (POP), the two essential mail services. You may also want to use a provider that will let you use Web mail, a service where you read your mail from a Web site, from your new domain.
This last feature is especially important if your primary Internet provider doesn't let you access SMTP mail services. This used to be extremely uncommon, but now major ISPs, like BellSouth.net, won't let you use SMTP mail services, which are used to send mail, unless they're providing it for you. ISPs are doing this in an attempt to cut down on spam, but at the same time, it's also making having a mail domain for your own legal use harder. If your ISP follows this policy, they're probably a way around it, but be ready to spend some time with their technical support people getting it worked out.