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GMail IMAP Access

October 27, 2007
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The big news about GMail last week is that GMail started to support IMAP access using various mail clients (not all GMail accounts yet; mine has already 🙂 ). Before that, you already can access GMail via POP, so what’s the big deal?


The main difference between these two protocols is that IMAP is two-way synchronization between severs and multiple machines, while POP is one-way access. In POP setting, you download the emails from the inbox on the server into your machine. You can set up your client such that the emails are deleted from the server only when you delete them in your mail client; however, you cannot synchronize the sent mails between the server and the local machine. Here is the comparison table to understand their differences.

In old days when the quota in mail server was limited, POP had its own advantage.
How to Start to Use GMail’s IMAP

In short,

  1. Go to GMail’s Setting under Forwarding and POP/IMAP and enable IMAP
  2. Set up your Email Client

Gina at Lifehacker posted an extensive how-to using Thunderbird as GMail IMAP client. Very useful.

Update: Check out this interview of GMai’s product manager regarding GMail’s related services, including IMAP.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kimiko permalink
    October 27, 2007 7:02 pm

    Huh? It really took them this long to implement IMAP in GMail? But IMAP is older than GMail. Wow, I didn’t know Google was that much behind the times.

  2. October 27, 2007 7:24 pm

    This is not about history. It depends on whether the company wants to put this into their mail service, especially for free.

    If I remember correctly, only paid Yahoo Mail service (Plus; $19.99/year) provides offline POP access, while AIM provides POP and IMAP for free (its IMAP is earlier than Google).

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