Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

4.18. How do I find out someone's Internet e-mail address?

Because there are so many computer systems and users in the world, it is impossible to keep a complete "white pages" of the Internet. The problem is compounded because people--especially students-- constantly come and go from the Net. Trying to store and update a complete directory of e-mail addresses would be an impossible, daunting task.

However, it's not impossible to find people on the net. Several tools are available that can help you search for a person's e-mail address, given some amount of information about your victim--er, associate. Each tool works in a different way. Some tools keep a huge database of names and addresses, and others search the Net for you "on the fly" without a prestored database. Quite often one of the following tools will succeed although the others fail, so it pays to try them all.

The more information you know about your associates--names, places of business or schools, and so on--the higher your chances are if finding them. If you want to get in touch with a pal from your past but you don't know where he or she works or what city she or he lives in, you're less likely to locate him or her--even if he or she is on the Net.

Of course, to be listed in any of these services, you need to have an account on the Internet, and to some extent, you need to want to be found. Don't forget about other ways to find someone: write a letter or pick up the phone and call.

For more information on finding someone's e-mail address, read: "FAQ: How to find people's E-mail addresses," available via e-mail from by sending send usenet/news.answers/finding-addresses in the body of the message. This document is also posted regularly to the Usenet group news.answers and is available via FTP as
Another document, specifically with help on finding college student's e-mail addresses, is available. It is also posted on a regular basis to news.answers. You can also get the file by anonymous FTP as
or by sending a mail message to with a message body of send usenet/

When all other methods of searching for an e-mail address have failed; after you've tried the user-lookup services listed below and calling your associate's old roommates, you can consider posting a message to the newsgroup asking for help locating your target. Before doing this, read the document "Tips on using" which is posted to that group regularly. This file is also available via FTP (the filename will be slightly different):[l.._13_09_92]
Remember, posting to the Usenet costs many people real money, and your chances of finding someone on if other search methods have failed--are slim.

Many Internet systems support a command called finger, which can give basic information about a user on a given computer. finger usually allows searches by first, last, or login names. To list users named Ron on your local system, typing finger ron should list everyone with Ron as part of their name or login. finger may return information including the user's real name, login, a phone number, and other personal information if these are supplied.

On many systems, finger allows you to peruse the users of other computers as well. Entering the command finger will tell you about the Rons with accounts on a certain computer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This in itself is not too powerful, however, because it requires that you know the exact name of the computer system you are searching. When you are searching for an associate's e-mail address, this isn't the case. Once you know the computer system and login name of a person, you know enough to send electronic mail.

finger's power, however, grows when used in conjunction with services such as Netfind, which scour the network for the names you give without any other information except an idea of where to look.

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