Email protocols

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There are many types of email accounts. Some are solely web based and accessed through a browser based GUI. Others take advantage of technologies and protocols with which you can download messages and/or synchronize the online account with devices such as mobile phones, PDAs or your computer. In this article we shall look at some of the popular email protocols and some company specific ones.

FYI, these protocols are used to connect to accounts, typically by email programs such Microsoft Outlook, Apple Mail or Mozilla Thunderbird.

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The Post Office Protocol version 3 – also called POP3 or POP

Post Office Protocol is probably the most known and commonly available technology for accessing emails. POP3, or simply POP, lets you download email from online accounts to your computer using email programs or email clients. You’ll probably have such a program preinstalled on your operating system – Outlook Express on Windows XP, Windows Mail on Windows Vista, Apple Mail on Macs. Windows XP and Vista users can also download and install Windows Live Mail the latest free email client from Microsoft. Thunderbird from Mozilla is another free email program and can run on Windows, Macintosh and Linux based computers.

Remember, an email program can only access your account if the latter is POP enabled. This is important! Confirm the POP availability with your email service provider. POP access may be free or cost you a small annual fee.

The next step is to configure the email program with the email account POP settings which you would typically get from the email service provider. Check their web site or contact their customer support cell.

POP goes hand in hand with SMTP (the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) which is used for sending email. To know more, please refer the link for further information. Thus, POP downloads messages from your email account and SMTP sends them from your computer.

IMAP – Internet Message Access Protocol

IMAP is generally considered superior to POP3 email protocol because it can selectively retrieve email messages or their parts and manage email in folders on the server. IMAP nicely synchronizes messages on the server with the email client on your computer by downloading all new headers. You can retain a copy of the email on the online server with IMAP – actually, you can also do the same with POP if you uncheck the option of deleting emails once they have been downloaded. IMAP is generally available on email accounts provided by ISPs but check with the company to make assurance doubly sure.

Downloading emails from servers with POP or IMAP

POP and IMAP are two very popular email protocols for downloading emails. These are found in almost all email clients – in fact, I wouldn’t care a hoot for an email program that doesn’t support these. However, the in-built POP technology on your email software is one thing and having it enabled for your account on the server is another. Thus, you may have the best and fanciest email program with all bells and whistles but if your email accounts do not allow downloading of messages via POP, IMAP or any other protocol, you would not be able to receive and store messages on your computer.

DAV and DeltaSynch protocols from Microsoft

Microsoft’s free email service Hotmail (now called Windows Live Hotmail) runs on different email protocols. The DAV (Distributed Authoring and Versioning) protocol has now been phased out in favour of DeltaSynch. Hotmail POP access is also available on all free account; however, only to a selective group of users (check the link for more information). To download Hotmail email messages you can either use the free Windows Live Mail program which is quite good or configure your account in a different email program via with POP settings (if these have been made available to you).

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