Why do we use @ in our email addresses?

Why do we use @ in our email addresses?
Photo by Brett Jordan / Unsplash

Hello there,

I just got done with my grade 12 exams! So this project is becoming a full-time gig for me. In today’s gig, we will be exploring this really interesting concept I came across- why do we use @ in our emails?

Well, there is not a lot of tech behind it, but it is an interesting find. So first things first, what is the purpose of the @ symbol? The @ symbol separates the user name and the service provider of an email. In more technical terms, the user name is the local, and the text preceding the @ symbol is the host identifier.

Here is an example,

In this email ID, tejas is the unique user name (local), and gmail.com is the service provider (host)

So, why @? Well, the founder of email initially thought of using commas and dots but turns out a lot of people were already using such symbols. So to avoid a mess on the internet and to stand out he used the iconic "@".

If analysed from a more technical perspective, the @ is a master move. Imagine if emails used dot (.) to separate the local and the host. Your email would look like this:


Why is this a challenge, though? When an email is sent it is critical for the computer to differentiate between the host and the local otherwise, the computer would be unaware as to which service provider the email would be sent to. So essentially, the computer would be unaware if “tejas” is the host or if “gmail” is the host or “com” is the host.

Lastly, by not using @ we would have way lesser permutations of email addresses. Not to forget that the @ also create uniformity in email addresses across the world.

And that is essentially why use the @ symbol.

If you liked reading this article and want to get more such tech articles in your inbox consider subscribing if you haven’t already. I also post small tech snippets over on Twitter, so follow me there. That’s it for this issue. Make sure to update your devices, and I’ll catch you all some other time.

Tejas Tagra
6466 days old