When you are going to set up your email account in a third-party client, you will almost always see that it offers you the same two options: Do it using IMAP or POP3. It’s the two most popular email protocols there are, although the way your emails work and use is quite different.
Therefore, it is usually important to know the differences to choose the one that best suits how you want to set up your account and to manage the emails that remain on the server. And that is precisely what we are going to do, explain quickly and easily the differences between the two so that the choice is as simple as possible.
What are the IMAP and POP3 protocols
The main feature of the IMAP protocol (Internet Message Access Protocol) is to check emails directly on the server in the cloud of the company with which you have your account. This allows emails to be synchronized without problems if you use them from different devices or the web client of the service.
On the other hand, the main disadvantage of delegating completely to a server in the cloud is that in principle you need to connect to the Internet every time you want to check your mail, and that you have to check your account to avoid reaching the limit of server space. Fortunately, today these problems are already solved by mail applications that allow you to download emails and check the free space left on the servers.
As for the POP3 protocol (Post Office Protocol 3), it connects to the server where the emails are stored and downloads them all to the device in which you have the account configured, allowing you to read them without connection. When you download the emails they are deleted from the server, although there are also clients that eliminate this mishap allowing you to keep them.
Therefore, we have an apparently more advanced and optimal IMAP protocol to be used from several devices, something important in a time of smartphones living with computers. On the other hand, POP3 may seem a bit more rudimentary, but it may offer some advantages to certain types of users.
Advantages and disadvantages of IMAP and POP3
As you can see from the table, currently the IMAP protocol offers the greatest advantages. It is recommended if you are going to use the same email account from several devices, since it applies all the changes in the server, and any folder or label that you create will be synchronized in the rest of the devices.
The great advantage of the POP3 protocol is that it is designed to work offline, but today most third-party clients allow local IMAP emails to be downloaded locally. Therefore, apparently only the trick of the little space necessary remains, something that can be attractive if we use a service with limited memory beyond Gmail or Outlook.
Every time you connect with your client through POP3 it reads all the emails that you have hosted on the server and downloads them, which makes it work a little slower. In addition, emails are usually deleted when they are downloaded, so it can be quite chaotic to use it on two different devices.
And even if your client allows you not to delete messages from the server, what you do locally will not be synchronized online, so changes will not be appreciated when you connect from another device. Come on, just the opposite of what happens with the IMAP protocol.
Despite these disadvantages, POP3 can still be a good option for those who want to maximize their privacy. Therefore, if you do not want your emails to be stored and always synchronized on the servers of a third company, you may want to resort to this protocol.
But for everything else, in most cases it will be most comfortable to always resort to the IMAP protocol, especially when you are using an account that you want to access from several devices at once.Tags: IMAP, mail, POP3