Blog on hold: This blog is currently on hold. Please visit blog.keranmckenzie.com for new blog posts

Jargon Explained Part 1: POP, SMTP & IMAP

Tweet When it comes to the internet there is a lot of jargon thrown around and many people don’t know what these words & terms mean. What I hope to do with this series is unwrap some of this jargon so anyone can understand. Often small business owners, or organisation leaders need to make technology [...]

When it comes to the internet there is a lot of jargon thrown around and many people don’t know what these words & terms mean. What I hope to do with this series is unwrap some of this jargon so anyone can understand. Often small business owners, or organisation leaders need to make technology decisions but get bamboozled by the terms.

I’m going to start with email jargon, in particular 3 terms often bandied around. SMTP, IMAP and POP.

POP: stands for Post Office Protocol. This is an older technology used for the retrieval of email from the mail server to your local computer. This is a simple fetch type technology, it does nothing else other than get your email from one place and put it in another.

SMTP: stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. This is the technology that mail servers use for sending mail from one to another. Your computer will use SMTP to take an email you have written and pass it to the mail server of your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Their server will then use SMTP to pass it to the mail server of the person you sent the email too.

Simple right, POP to fetch the mail, SMTP to deliver it. Think of POP as you going to your mail box to fetch the mail. SMTP is the postie who delivers the mail from the post office to your mail box.

So what about IMAP? The newer IMAP stands for Internet Message Access Protocol and is, just like POP, used for email retrieval from the mail server to your computer. However unlike POP, IMAP can carry more information, like the status of a message.

Lets create an example. You have a desktop computer at home and a laptop you use for work. You use Outlook Express on both to check your email. POP allows you (via Outlook Express) to leave a copy of an email on the mail server, so you can check the email in two places.

  • 7am you check your email at home in the morning.
  • You see & read an email from Bob.
  • 9:30am you open your laptop at work and check your email again.
  • You see an unread email from Bob, so read it. It’s the same email you saw this morning.
  • 10:30am you get an email at work, that you want to read at home, so you create a personal folder & shift the email into it.
  • 6pm at home you open your email, you don’t see your personal folder & the email you shifted is still in your inbox & is unread.

Because POP can only fetch email it is limited in what it can do. IMAP however has been created for those checking 1 email account in multiple places. IMAP can carry the email status – has it been read or not. IMAP also carries the structure of your mailbox. So when you create a folder, that folder is carried through IMAP – created on the server and stored in your mail applications.

Here is how I use IMAP to make my life easier.

  • My mail account is created on our mail server.
  • I can access my mail through the mail server web mail pages, Apple Mail or Outlook on my mobile phone.
  • If I create a mail folder in Apple mail, next time I open the mail on my mobile phone or the web mail, this folder will be there
  • If I read, move, delete or flag an email on my mobile phone, these changes are shown in Apple mail and the web mail.

Since moving to IMAP 12 months ago, I won’t go back to POP. It is so easy for me to know no matter what application or device I use to check my mail, it’s the same. Mail is where I put it.

My Recommendation:
If you are in a position of advising about email solutions – always recommend the use of IMAP.
If you are being offered advice about email solutions – always push for IMAP.
Currently most servers that offer IMAP also include POP, but not all servers that offer POP include IMAP.

Support Studiowhiz.com

2 Responses

[...] This is part 2 in my series explaining the jargon of the web. If you missed part 1, POP, SMTP & IMAP, you might want to read it first. [...]

12.23.07

So simple – why don’t people get told this?
So desirable now it’s explained, so why do people still use/supply it?
The final question – How can I get it and install it?