Google has slipped IMAP support into its GMail service, allowing users to manage their mail on the server and access it using different clients, with the status of their messages maintained. IMAP is a vast improvement over POP3 - the more popular protocol for collecting email - though it seems GMail will continue to support both …
I've been waiting for this for so long - just in time to test it out with the new Apple Mail!
IMAP > POP3
This is cool. I've been using IMAP for years through FastMail. I think it would be more popular but most users I've spoken to don't know what it is.
IMAP doesn't require a user to stay connected. If you use thunderbird, for example, you can download some or all messages & then choose to work offline. Next time you connect all replies will be sent and new mail downloaded. IMAP with SSL connections also avoids the tedium of VPNs, you can securely read mail from anywhere.
Actually, I've nothing more to say than the subject line. POP3 combined with a modern email client is so much better than IMAP that I can't imagine ever switching back. IMAP is a dog.
I haven't had to enable IMAP (in fact I don't have the option) yet I'm happily using IMAP to access my inbox.
Pop3 supports SSL already
"IMAP with SSL connections also avoids the tedium of VPNs, you can securely read mail from anywhere."
Pop3 supports SSL anyway, and in fact, Gmail requires a SSL connection.
Thanks Google! That's brilliant news!
About time too
I'd be very happy to use GMail, but I need to be able to access my mail on a phone, and prefer to be able to use a client sometimes too. Having Gmail support IMAP will make all of that possible, which is great!
Seconded Steve's comments. IMAP doesn't require you to stay connected. I have been using IMAP for years with Outlook Express and the beauty of it is that even if I have no net connection, I can still work with my mail (compose, reply, delete, move e-mails), then reconnect to sync everything up in one swoop.
I never have to worry about whether the mail is the same on my PC or online either, it's always synced, so if I go on holiday for example, I can expect ALL my mail to be available to me, then when I get home, IMAP syncs it all again. Haven't used POP3 since my Uni days and that was 7-11 years ago.
Is this working for UK users cos its not working for me
About to try it out, but hopefully it'll solve the annoying webmail quirk of all the messages you've dealt with via POP3 being still 'unread' on the web interface.
Plus it should sort the Gmail-specific quirk of all your Sent Items being downloaded to your POP3 inbox, too...
Well, thank foo for that. All working on my PDA right now, so I'm a happy chappy. One word of warning, if my language was set to UK English, no imap. US English = imap! So for those that can't see the imap option, do a swap over and away you go.
Shame pop3 is foobarred for my gmail account, but google haven't got round to fixing it for about 8months.
I suspect the author was referring to IMAPs general brittleness caused by many clients' assumption (based on the protocol itself) that they can hold an open socket connection to the server and expect to pick it up and use it a little later.
It only takes one dodgy firewall on route loosing track of the IP session for this to break and for the client to get stuck in an ugly cycle of timeouts.
Basically IMAP was designed for a situation where the clients are relatively local to the server and communicating over a well known/controlled network. It does work widearea but it isn't perfect for that use.
Nice well rounded argument
Care to explain why (in your opinion) IMAP is a "dog" or why POP3 is "so much better"??
How can a protocol that actually requires you to download your virus-laden spam (POP3) be better than a protocol that gives you a list of your messages waiting on the server? With IMAP you can just delete it before it gets anywhere near your computer.
Care to give us your reasoning on why imap sucks? not that I don't want to take your word for it, but I've been using imap successfully for years and afaik, it is a superset of pop3 anyways, ie anything you can do with pop3, you can do with imap anyways.
..not appeared in my account yet.
IMAP = 4 legs
POP3 = 2 legs
This is brilliant. I've been using IMAP with my ISP (PlusNet) for as long as I can remember, so that I can read my email at work, at home on different computers, and even on my mobile.
But more importantly is that Google apps will also support it so now you can use your own domain name with the Gmail interface, and pick you email anywhere you go. (Just as a note the Gmail Java App for mobile phones has never worked with Google Apps)
I read in other places that Google are rolling this out so you might not get the option for a few days.
"With IMAP all email is stored on the server, including sent mail"
Or not. You can choose to save sent mail to a local folder, with every client I've ever come across, and certainly in Thunderbird.
'Course, for GMail, the point is mute :-)
Maybe now we get IMAP bugs fixed?
So maybe Thunderbird 2 developers will get off their high chairs and maybe actually get around to fixing the many bugs in IMAP support they've left in.
POP3 support has had most of its bugs fixed due to its popularity. But IMAP has been left out in the cold for years.
I've been reporting and waiting for IMAP filtering to work correctly for years.
I just wish they'd also save the email settings into a Imap folder so I don't have to update 3 versions of Thunderbird everytime I change a filter and move around.
Not up on your George Orwell ?
I was merely implying that IMHO IMAP is a generally good and reliable beast.. and that POP3 is an annoying pimple on my IT landscsape.
(Although I can see why historically POP3 was something that was necessary given the dial-up access everyone had in it's hay day..)
Partnership with Apple
I wonder how much this has to do with Google's partnership with Apple for the iPhone. So far, Yahoo is the only provider of Push IMAP for the iPhone, so I wonder if Google is aiming to support the feature going forward?
@ Robert Long
What a truly risible comment about IMAP. POP3 is great - I mean who doesn't love their email being stuck on a single computer? Who doesn't love having to download the entire message? IMAP clearly has no advantages, with my IMAP account I can access it on almost any device from any location with a small footprint and all mail gets filtered/virus checked/spam checked on the server. Let's all hope to God that Rob doesn't fancy a career in IT.
This feels nice and familiar....
...so there is a remote client, a client/server protocol, and the mail stays on the server?
Just like Microsoft Exchange then ;-)
@ Robert Long
Yep POP3 has the true advantage. The advantage of losing all of your mail when your computer goes tits up. This is its primary, main and inherent advantage from which you cannot escape.
I keep all my mail on an IMAP server. All 5-6GB of it. As a result I have not had any mail loss for the last 8 years. None of the usual "the client (insert name here) ate my mailbox" and "the disk failed so I have no access to any of my mail" for now. None of the "I need to change the client so I have to convert my folders". None of the "This email is on my other machine". None of that...
And most importantly it works on anything starting with my desktop, my personal laptop, my company laptop, my phone, pda, etc. Without paying for any extra software.
IMAP@Gmail has been working for quite some time now
I've been using IMAP with my GMail account for quite some time now, why is this suddenly a news item?
Really imap or another trick like pop3
You only get real pop3 if you do your username as recent:email@example.com and even then only for the last 30 days or so of email. If you use their regular pop3 it resets every time you download email or look at your account. So look at your email via the web and then come home and try and download into thunderbird and it will only download the messages since you looked at it over the web. No using two offline email softwares together either. This is not how regular pop3 works and is a a total pain as the recent tag is hidden. Read the discussion groups and people trying to download their latest email is a total gamble.
If you use the recent tag and download at least once a month then you can make it work with thunderbird but also filter out any email sent via gmail because you get a copy of every sent email back. But coexisting web use and an offline email client was a complete pain to setup and no thanks to google. Maybe imap will be better, I hope so but I wouldn't bet against it having a secret google way of working like their pop.
After today, GMail is now collecting all my POP3 mailboxes and making them accessible by IMAP.
IMAP is so much better than POP4. Especially when you have two desktops, a laptop and a phone and want to have the same Email on all of them!
You can even push messages up onto the server to make them accessible on your other devices!
> "Mail protocol wasn't dead, only sleeping"
You mean it was not pining for the fjords?
Horses for courses
Personally I use both. IMAP is fine for one user sharing my domain who can access her email from wherever she is and her inbox and folders all stay on the same server. Another uses POP3 as he doesn't want it stored on the server. With POP3 and Fetchmail I can arrange for automated delivery of my messages to another machine which I don't want to act as an MX for the same domain. Having optional use of either protocol makes it possible for multiple prefixes all @the.same.domain to have individual delivery and storage preferences.
Actually, we use IMAP at my company, and love it. Except, what do people in a small workgroup who aren't blessed (cursed) with an Exchange server do for Calendar sharing? The few tools I've looked at seem to create new separate-but-equal calendar form/apps within Outlook, which would render PDA sync useless.
True. For services such as GMail, I'd rather use IMAP. But for most non-free email, I tend to use POP3, not just because I'm used to it (using internet since 1996). I use it because most email addys I use are changed, deleted or something frequently. Using IMAP usually makes all that e-mail go bye-bye, POP3 will keep it on my PC for all eternity.
These problems were very standard when I was in HS/college, as the IT folks loved to wipe student accounts every semester, or change our addys. That, and well, I've switched so many ISP/work email accounts I have lost count of those.
Of course, I still have to backup all that stuff, as having locally stored e-mail can increase the risk of losing everything... as I did back in '97 when a virus ate my HD.
BTW Emoze now supports Push e-mail from gmail accounts!
visit m.emoze.com from your pda/smartphone
RE: This feels nice and familiar....
You bet it feels nice and familiar, David, but not for the reason you're possibly suggesting - a quick check will reveal you that IMAP predates Exchange by god knows how many years. As usual.
(I'm assuming here that Microsoft email client/server solutions don't prefer to settle for IMAP but use some closed and "optimized" protocol of their own, all for the customers' own good of course, am I wrong?)
You don't have to download the whole message with POP3
There's the TOP command, supported by almost all servers, in my experience.
When there was an annoying worm/virus sending 100 kB messages I had a Perl script that connected every 15 minutes using POP3 and deleted those messages without downloading them. There were hundreds of them arriving every day, so it really was worth connecting every 15 minutes. Fortunately the messages were easy to identify from the header.
I'm a bit wary of IMAP because it's so complex. There are bound to be bugs in every implementation.
A simple solution to downloading from gmail to two computers: get a second (free) account and forward messages from one to the other; one computer downloads from one account, and one from the other. Presumably this disc-space-wasting solution is no longer required with IMAP, but can I be bothered to fix a set-up that still works?
Been hooked on the joy of IMAP since my uni account used it. Own servers now run it, can't stand the idea of reverting to POP3 (although the fun of making sure all e-mail is backed up and synced across multiple machines in case of failure / whimsical format does hold some appeal ...).
@ Tim Morrison
"How can a protocol that actually requires you to download your virus-laden spam (POP3) be better than a protocol that gives you a list of your messages waiting on the server? With IMAP you can just delete it before it gets anywhere near your computer."
POP3 requires no such thing. You can download just headers and decide what to actually retrieve from the server and what to delete straight off the server. It may be that this facility is not implemented in many POP3 email clients, but Pegasus has had it under the name "selective mail download" for many years and it remains my primary defense against spam.
In the decade-plus I've been using Pegasus, the number of incoming messages that weren't obviously identifiable as spam or not can be counted on the ten fingers, no toes required.
Fortunately Pegasus also gives the user full control over what attachments to open and whether to interpret html-ized messages or not, so it's safe to download even viral vectors as long as you have your wits about you. IOW, the rare ambiguous messages that are viral still have an exceedingly hard time infecting you.
One unpleasant development looms, however: I have received legitimate messages that looked a great deal like spam when I examined the headers. Canada Post sends out shipping notification messages that are very spam-like, for example: the Received: headers refer to servers with no obvious connection to any organization you've heard of (esp not to Canada Post), and the messages are html format only, another characteristic of many spams. Somebody in Ottawa or Toronto is too much in love with cleverness and lives in too tall an ivory tower.
IMAP vs POP
The ignorance of the comments touting iMAP vs POP displayed here is appalling. If the article author or the commenter are IT people, they should be fired for incompetence.
The bottom line is that all of the “unique” attributes claimed in the above postings are in fact within the scope of both implementations using standard email clients. You just have not be totally clueless.
"Course, for GMail, the point is mute"
The word is *moot* - I've been seeing this slip more often recently and it's beginning to get on my wotsits.
Ooh I could crush a grape!
RE: RE: This feels nice and familiar....
"Microsoft email client/server solutions don't prefer to settle for IMAP but use some closed and "optimized" protocol of their own"
I wouldnt call it optimised.
Ever tried to conect to a truely remote (as in different country or other very large distance) exchange server?
Microsoft in their wisdom require hundreds of minisclue packets to be sent back and forth to connect, each one waiting on sucessful completion of the previous. this means that with any significant latency in the network connection you can be looking at 5 minute load times for outlook.
Note that that can be mitigated by competant IT management, but that assumes a lot :)
Despite my huzzahs above, I have yet to have the IMAP setting pop up in GMail - and I've tried all the tricks like changing to US English and Logging in and out. Hopefully it'll pop up soon !
It's the clients that's the problem
IMAP, despite a few idiosynchracies, beats POP3 hands down for reading email. The main problem is finding an email client that gives you all the functionality you need, most IMAP support seems at best buggy
Love it already!
It took me less than a minute to set it up on my three home comp's in the morning - just got happy from the news even though I was running late for work. I've been using IMAP wherever I could since around 1999-2000
On a side note I've been using Hotmail since a few months after the release in 1996.... Did the ISP email accounts really start to disappear in UK that early? Here in Scandinavia I remember it was still one of the key features for deciding on which ISP to go with back then - and still was far beyond y2k...
Another nice thing about IMAP
is that it allows you to change mail providers reasonably easily. You don't like Gmail in 5 years time? (or want to switch from another imap provider to them), you can knock up a script that'll just slurp the mail off one server and pop it onto the new one - folders and all. Probably apps about to do this stuff - if not I might write one and make my millions.
Sometimes they learn
As much as it pains me to point out anything positive about MS Exchange, they have remedied somewhat the stupidity of using minimally sized packets over WAN links (or any kind of network) mentioned by James Findley.
Buried in the account options of the MS Outlook client is the option to access the MS Exchange server via HTTP or as they put it "Connect to my Exchange mailbox using HTTP". There are some other options to further tweak the settings.
By doing so, you can get two bonuses;
1. MS Outlook will not bog down your whole OS while it sends, checks,sends, checks and basically babbles at the MS Exchange server over a WAN link with latency higher than 10 ms.
2. If the MS Exchange server connectivity is lost, you will not have to reboot your PC while MS Outlook goes insane. You can carry on using your PC until connectivity to the MS Exchange box is back.
MS Outlook 2003 has this option. Not sure when it was first made available.
Of course to use it, the MS Exchange version must support it and it must be turned on.
Turning on these options have made a distasteful task (relying on MS Exchange) a little less bitter.
Surprised that no one mentioned the obvious...
Folder support. pop3 doesn't have it with inbox only support. imap supports folders, subfolders, and subfolders of subfolders. Etc.
As well, i don't have to rely on client sorting for email, since all the folders are kept on the server - procmail being your friend and all. Thus, even the stupidest thin client with a good imap implementation has all my folders properly sorted, and i don't have to work out spam filters when i change clients.
Admittedly, this is a very "in the innards" reason to use it.
my feeling is: you can make pop3 act like imap4, for everything BUT server side folders - and that alone is reason enough to use it.
But i understand why, back in the day of not quite so inexpensive storage, ISP's didn't want to. I remember back in '96 trying to convince the ISP i was working for that we should support imap, and it truely did simply come down to a business case for paying for storage. It wasn't worth it.
What am I doing wrong?
I use Outlook (not express) and POP3 to access my email. Therefore I have all my mails downloaded onto my hard drive. I then back up my PST file.
I can also access my gmail via the web, and the messages are still there.
In fact, when I delete my messages from Outlook they remain on googles server. Despite me having the "delete mail of server" checkbox enabled.
IMAP compliments webmail...
With IMAP you can use a mail client at home and webmail out and about - at work or on holiday for example - and still keep access to your folders. I use Thunderbird and webmail with my ISP and it works a charm.
And for the guy who wanted to be able to change ISPs - easy - hook up your IMAP client and drag n drop your folders to your machine or to your new account. Where's the hassle?
POP3 is nice lightweight protocol for slow or dial-up connections - but most of us don't have those any more.
For Google it makes perfect sense - people get to use a client at home and the webmail interface on the move. And Google gets to keep all your email on their servers so they can do all their ad-targeting and data mining.
IMAP with push email
I've had an IMAP account with Fastmail for years - this gives me true push email on my mobile device - no need for a Blackberry or to subscribe to any of the push email services offered by the mobile networks.
And I am an IT guru/programmer/user, so you can take your idle threats of having me fired and shove them up your ahole.
I am forced to use IMAP at work, and every freakin day I get messages about how my mail box is full.
No such issue with pop.
with imap somebody is holding my email and can peruse it at their leisure, delete it, corrupt it, send it off to the FBI, all with no control from me.
If I care to have such a 'feature' I can use yahoo, google, msn to hold it for me. I don't.