What Is IMAP? Introduction to Internet Message Access Protocol

Aaron Paul updated on Dec 08, 2022 to Knowledge Center

What Is Internet Message Access Protocol?

Do you want to know what is IMAP? Internet Message Access Protocol is an application layer protocol specifically designed to receive email from the mail server. In simple words, there are two parts of IMAP: Server and Client, by which you can send and receive emails through a remote server. For example, while using Outlook, you send a mail to someone, and you become the client at that time. On the other hand, Outlook will act as the server, and the person receiving the mail is also a client. 

IMAP is also famous for different names, including interactive mail access protocol, interim mail access protocol, and internet mail access protocol. With this protocol, you can manage multiple mailboxes at the same time and also organize them into different categories for your ease. The current version of IMAP is IMAP 4rev1.

How Does Internet Message Access Protocol Work?

Now that you know what IMAP is, the next step is understanding how this protocol operates. The first step is to log in as a client, such as when you use Microsoft Outlook, you first log in it. Then, the client uses the IMAP to connect with the server, and these connections are built on a specific port. Once the connections are built, the email headers will be visible to the email client, and only with the client's instruction can IMAP download messages.

Compared with other email retrieval protocols, users can check the mail faster with IMAP. Above all, the emails will not be deleted until you manually delete them. As for the port numbers, the listening is on port number 143, which is non-encrypted. In comparison, transport layer security is on port 993, which is encrypted. The email can be accessed on multiple devices, including desktop computers, cell phones, laptops, and tabs.  

What Does Internet Message Access Protocol Do?

There are many things in which this protocol can assist you. If you want to know more about the features of the IMAP protocol, have a look below:

  • If you wish to mark the messages you have read, you can do this by setting message flags.
  • With this protocol, you can swiftly transfer a message from one mailbox to another. Moreover, you can manage multiple mailboxes and organize them at your convenience. You can also create, rename or delete the mailbox on the server.
  • IMAP allows you to transfer a specific portion of any mail, so you can only download the part you need rather than downloading the whole mail. It can be body text, large multimedia files, or any elements. You can also check the headers of emails before downloading them.  
  • If you are in a hurry, this protocol allows you to search for the specific mail or the content of a mail so you can find them without effort.
  • Accessing and retrieving mail from one remote server is possible with this IMAP. You can access the mail from the server while retaining the mail in the server.
  • The emails will not be deleted until you delete them, so there is no hassle to save them anywhere manually.

Internet Message Access Protocol FAQs?

Now you know about IMAP Protocol, its uses, and how to use it to your advantage. Here are some of the frequently asked questions about IMAP:

1. Is Gmail using IMAP?

Yes, Gmail is using IMAP. It is an email service platform that comprises both IMAP and POP.

2. Should I use IMAP or SMTP?

SMTP and IMAP both have their place in the market and are used for email services. SMTP is used explicitly for sending mail between two servers or from a client to a server. In the case of IMAP, it is a protocol that helps in managing and retrieving emails from a server. The user can choose between IMAP and STMP according to their needs.

3. What is the difference between IMAP and SMTP?

There are many differences between IMAP and STMP, including STMP being used for sending emails, whereas IMAP is used for retrieving emails. Moreover, the STMP works among servers for transferring data, but the IMAP works between a client and a server. Above all, IMAP allows users to organize emails on the server as per their needs, but STMP enables you to organize emails on client storage. SMTP works on 25, 465, and 587 ports, while IMAP works on 143 and 993 ports.

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