What is IMAP?

After looking at POP3, you may be able to guess that there are probably more efficient protocols out there for retrieving emails from a server. And, you’re right. While POP3 may be suitable for some people, namely those who only check their email from one location and one device, this type of limited email access can be very restrictive and even been seen as outdated in our modern society.

In order to solve this problem and keep up with the advancing technology of our day and age, another protocol for the retrieval of emails was conceived. This protocol, known as Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), enjoys great popularity in the world today because of its convenience and extra abilities.

Unlike POP, which IMAP was designed to liberate us from, IMAP is not restricted to any device in particular, nor is it limited to the local email server. This is good news because it means that we have a way to view our emails across multiple devices. Most people who use email probably use IMAP and don’t even realize it. Just stop for a moment and think about it: can you only check your emails from your laptop? Probably not.

Most big email providers offer email access across multiple platforms, having desktop sites and mobile apps all geared for your use. This is because being able to access your emails wherever you go is important and convenient, allowing for you to have better communication with those around you. Because of this, IMAP is a very popular email protocol.

So, how does IMAP work, exactly? How is it different than POP3? While a lot of people like to think of POP as a one-way street, IMAP can be seen as a two-way street. Unlike POP3–that deletes your emails from the email server once you access them, IMAP keeps your emails on the server so that you can access them from multiple devices.

 This means that if you make contact with the email server, no matter which device, you’ll be able to access your emails, as they won’t be deleted by the email server. While this is convenient for you, some email providers cap the amount of emails or the amount of space that your emails can take up on their server. After you reach these server limits, you may find that your email server won’t hold anymore emails for you. Still, however, IMAP’s ability to give you access to your emails from multiple platforms is essential to the modern world.