IMAP4 & POP3 differences

  • The Internet Message Access Protocol (commonly known as IMAP) is an Application Layer Internet protocol that allows an e-mail client to access e-mail on a remote mail server. The current version, IMAP version 4 revision 1 (IMAP4rev1), is defined by RFC 3501. An IMAP server listens on well-known port 143.IMAP supports both on-line and off-line modes of operation. E-mail clients using IMAP generally leave messages on the server until the user explicitly deletes them. This and other characteristics of IMAP operation allow multiple clients to manage the same mailbox. Most e-mail clients support IMAP in addition to POP to retrieve messages; however, fewer email services support IMAP. IMAP offers access to the mail storage. Clients may store local copies of the messages, but these are considered to be a temporary cache.Incoming e-mail messages are sent to an e-mail server that stores messages in the recipient's email box. The user retrieves the messages with an e-mail client that uses one of a number of e-mail retrieval protocols. Some clients and servers preferentially use vendor-specific, proprietary protocols, but most support the Internet standard protocols, SMTP for sending e-mail and POP and IMAP for retrieving e-mail, allowing interoperability with other servers and clients. For example, Microsoft's Outlook client uses a proprietary protocol to communicate with a Microsoft Exchange Server server as does IBM's Notes client when communicating with a Domino server, but all of these products also support POP, IMAP, and outgoing SMTP. Support for the Internet standard protocols allows many e-mail clients such as Pegasus Mail or Mozilla Thunderbird (see comparison of e-mail clients) to access these servers, and allows the clients to be used with other servers (see list of mail servers).

 

  • POP supports simple download-and-delete requirements for access to remote mailboxes (termed maildrop in the POP RFC's). Although most POP clients have an option to leave mail on server after download, e-mail clients using POP generally connect, retrieve all messages, store them on the user's PC as new messages, delete them from the server, and then disconnect. Other protocols, notably IMAP, (Internet Message Access Protocol) provide more complete and complex remote access to typical mailbox operations. Many e-mail clients support POP as well as IMAP to retrieve messages; however, fewer Internet Service Providers (ISPs) support IMAP.A POP3 server listens on well-known port 110. Encrypted communication for POP3 is either requested after protocol initiation, using the STLS command, if supported, or by POP3S, which connects to the server using Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) on well-known TCP port 995 (e.g. Google Gmail).Available messages to the client are fixed when a POP session opens the maildrop, and are identified by message-number local to that session or, optionally, by a unique identifier assigned to the message by the POP server. This unique identifier is permanent and unique to the maildrop and allows a client to access the same message in different POP sessions. Mail is retrieved and marked for deletion by message-number. When the client exits the session, the mail marked for deletion is removed from the maildrop.

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