Thursday, 29 May 2008


Sze-jun Tsai a Google Help Center guru has a good post on the Gmail blog about some of the differences between the supported email protocols offered with your GMail account, IMAP (Internet Mail Access Protocol) and POP (Post Office Protocol).

Clearly in the post IMAP is the preferred protocol, and I couldn't agree more. However, there are also a few other reasons not mentioned (source):

IMAP protocol advantages:
-Can manipulate persistent message status flags.
-Can access and manage multiple mailboxes.
-Can support concurrent updates and access to shared mailboxes.
-Suitable for accessing non-email data; e.g., NetNews, documents.
-Can also use offline paradigm, for minimum connect time and disk use.
-Companion protocol defined for user configuration management (IMSP).
-Constructs to permit online performance optimization, especially over low-speed links.

A few years ago POP was more common however with several great (free) email clients out there that offer both, IMAP is likely your best bet.


  1. Most of the features that are there in IMAP can also be done in POP3 using the clients like Thunderbird.
    --You can delete the messages on the server or choose to keep a copy of them
    --You can configure the client to mark the messages as read when they are downloaded from the server.

    How exactly is IMAP better than POP3 then

  2. Thunderbird is an excellent email client that gives you a lot of flexibility for managing your mailbox.

    However, you comment does highlight two drawbacks with the POP3 protocol.

    IMAP makes your mailbox mobile. You do not have to re-download messages, setup folders, etc. if you get a new laptop, cell phone, PDA etc.

    Once you make a change to your mailbox or its structure using IMAP the next time you log in from any deivce that change is immidiately reflected.