An analysis of email options

POP versus IMAP versus WEB e-mail

There are two main options to use email: client program, like outlook, or browser. However, when using an email client, there are two options of reading the messages that are considerably different from each other: POP and IMAP, and therefore we will consider three different options: POP, IMAP and WEB.

Email, as an important function of the Internet, has a lot of relevant material published. Following are few examples, from Wikipedia, of such sites especially related to this discussion:

POP - Post Office Protocol.

IMAP - Internet Message Access Protocol.

Web-based email

Note: the main issues are with reading and saving e-mails. Sending emails is always done via the SMTP protocol, so there is no difference in this regard between any type of email system. Saving sent messages involves the same process as saving received messages and should be discussed jointly.

Here follows a discussion about the main differences, from the user's perspective, between the various methods of using e-mails.

POP was the first e-mail client protocol to enable e-mail handling from small computers (PCs) when they started to become available at the early '80s. Until then, e-mail was sent and received from 'central' computers with terminals. Those computers perform e-mail tasks alongside other more 'important' tasks.

E-mail clients with POP connect to the server whenever the program starts and transfers all new messages to the local computer, thereby removing them from the server. The connection renews every once in a while as long as the e-mail client program is running.
Note: as POP assumes that people still use the "sometimes connected" model, which was the common way of using the internet at the age of modem and expensive connection, all messages are moved to the local computer, so they are available all the time. This is still the default POP behaviour.

Shortly after the e-mail client based on the POP protocol was invented, a problem came up: many users don't use just one PC, but rather one of several, such as the one at work, another at home plus a portable perhaps. This might be even more complex with several being used at work, several at home, multiple portables and mobile devices. Therefore, each of the PCs will have some of the messages stored on them but the total amount of data will be distributed across all of them and will not be accessible from a single computer. Another drawback is that servers are more protected machines and therefore make better storage sites than local PCs which are less protected and more likely to lose data.

Because of these problems, IMAP was developed shortly after the POP was introduced. As connectivity become much better and it was clear that it will continue to improve, IMAP is based on the "mostly connected" model.

Therefor IMAP default behavior is different. Messages remain on the server and local PCs only keep the data "catalogue". This enables multiple e-mail clients to access the server and have access to all messages. Also, the overall design of IMAP includes many additions and changes which make it a better protocol than POP.

Years later, when the Internet became widely available, WEB e-mail emerged. WEB e-mail has all the advantages of all other e-mail clients plus two important additions: there is no need for an installation on the local computer and access can be made from any location with an Internet connection at any time.

The main disadvantage of WEB e-mail is that it is dependent on Internet connectivity. However, as Internet availability and speed is very good today and rapidly improving, this method has become the preferred method for using e-mail. All the biggest e-mail services and many others are based on WEB e-mail as it offers important advantages to users. The biggest e-mail services: Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail serve hundreds of millions of users.

While big ISPs prefer the use of POP in order to reduce the amount of storage space needed on their servers, it may not be the best choice for users as it makes the use of multiple computers very cumbersome and significantly reduces the security of your data. Therefore, if your privacy and security are important to you, you should use an IMAP based mail client or your web browser to use your email. We have done our best to make Safe-Mail just as good as (if not better than) the best mail clients available.
Since some users say that they use their mail clients because they like the way they look and feel, we have developed five(!) different interface designs that you can choose from the preferences menu. Other users said that they like getting a notification on their desktop whenever a new message is received. We have developed two different solutions: the Monitor and Symphony. Just click on the Monitor link at the upright corner and you can get an instant new mail notification, or install symphony (free of charge) and you will have much more than that right at your desktop.

Click here to see more information about using Safe-mail with email programs.

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