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POP3 vs IMAP: What Is Better to Choose?

by Louise W. Rice
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If you happen to start an email box, then you have probably seen these abbreviations: POP3 and IMAP. They also appear when connecting existing mailboxes to new mail clients. In this article, we will tell you how these abbreviations are deciphered and what these protocols are for.

What Are POP3 and IMAP?

POP3 and IMAP are data transfer protocols. They are relatively popular and still in use today. Both perform a simple task: they allow you to receive and read emails using one or more email clients. If after activating this feature you would have to stop it – read about how to stop syncing mail in Outlook by following this link.

  • POP3 (or Post Office Protocol) was developed in 1984. The creators of the protocol focused on the slow and unstable dial-up connection to the network of those times;
  • IMAP (or Internet Message Access Protocol) was developed two years later. Its creators were no longer so worried about the presence or absence of the Internet and assumed that the client always had stable access to the network. This means that all incoming correspondence can be safely left on the server so that the owner of the mailbox can read the incoming messages wherever there is the Internet.

Two opposite approaches have formed a set of different features for each protocol. At that time, each protocol acquired its pros and cons. Over time, they have ceased to be as noticeable as before, but we will discuss them anyway.

What Is Exchange?

This is Microsoft technology. Essentially a commercial name for their messaging protocol is called MAPI (or Messaging Application Programming Interface). This technology works in the same way as IMAP. In terms of functionality, they are not much different. The differences are inside, and they are associated with the proprietary nature of the Microsoft product.

POP3 or IMAP: What Should You Choose?

We have already found out that the developers of the discussed protocols set opposite tasks and prepared for completely different working conditions. This has mainly influenced how IMAP and POP3 are technically designed and how both function.

POP3, for example:

  • First, it connects to the mail server through the application;
  • Then it checks the mailbox for new letters;
  • It downloads all fresh mail to the user’s device;
  • Then removes it from the server;
  • And then disconnects from the server.

On the contrary, IMAP:

  • Connects to the server;
  • Caches any useful information about the mailbox to local storage. Including the text of letters, the number of letters, the name of the attachments, etc.;
  • Handles any action on the part of the user;
  • When the user finishes, it disconnects from the server.

As you can see, IMAP downloads almost nothing. Any changes take place directly on the server. Only a small cache and attachments get to the device. However, attachments do not disappear from the box. This is the main difference.

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