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I noticed that gmail.com redirects to mail.google.com, is this because Google bought the domain and redirected it for people who made this assumption or is it because you can assign email addresses to domain names (or something along those lines)?

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xyz@googlemail.com accounts are being given the option to change to xyz@gmail.com accounts, which makes for shorter email addresses. Also, to answer your question, yes, the part behind the @ is usually the domain name.

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So by default if you make an email service you have to assign it to a real domain name? Could it be an IP? –  5ives Nov 17 '12 at 23:03
    
According to Wikipedia (see "Email address"), you can use an IPv6-IP, but as you can probably imagine, a regular domain is easier to type. ;) –  Peter W. Nov 17 '12 at 23:07
    
It might also be a pure IP address (xyz@[203.0.113.2]), but IPv6 surely makes for shorter addresses. You can hardly beat xyz@[::1] ;) –  Claudius Nov 17 '12 at 23:15
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