Chances are when you signed up for that web-based email you didn’t read the terms of service. Many require that you log in regularly, or risk losing the username (email address).
Mashable reports that Microsoft may be recycling old user accounts, and Webereld says there’s potential of the previous user’s information being exposed to new account holders (that report is here, but it’s in Dutch).
According to Microsoft’s terms, the company’s email services require you log in at least once every 270 days. The company told PC World that inactive email accounts are scheduled for deletion after that time, and that after 360 days of inactivity, the email account is available for anyone else to grab.
Yahoo also releases account names after they are deleted due to inactivity.
Good news for Gmail users, though. Once a user account is created with Google, it’s reserved forever, even after the account has been deleted.
Of course, that brings me to the most important point. Businesses should be using email address reflective of the website domain. It’s more professional, and you have greater control of everything, including forwarding in case your company rebrands or sells.