Understanding the Differences between SMTP, IMAP and POP3

A massive flow of emails every day? Maybe you have been wondering how emails work in all your devices, so in this blog, we will take a closer look at SMTP, IMAP and POP3, their essential characteristics and how we use them every day in our internet world and communication.

SMTP IMAP POP3

Differences?

Both POP3 and IMAP are incoming mail protocols that e-mail clients use to retrieve messages from e-mail servers. The client can be based on applications or the web, for example Gmail or Yahoo!. Although they have the same function, they have several differences.

1 SMTP

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is a communication protocol used when transferring email messages or texts over the internet. SMTP acts like you are online mail man. Simple Mail Transfer Protocol is part of an application layer of the TCP/IP protocol. The process used by SMTP when moving your emails across networks is called “store and forward”. Working closely with an MA (Mail Transfer Agent), SMTP can send your communication to the correct recipient, i.e. email address.

SMTP can only transfer texts and can’t handle graphics, attachments, fonts etc.

When setting up an email account, the question can pop out you, which email protocol you would like to use: IMAP or POP. Whichever choice you make will significantly affect how you will be using email messages.

2 IMAP

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is one of the most commonly used Internet mail protocols for retrieving emails. With IMAP, you can access your emails messages from any location using the internet. When you use the IMAP you are not downloading the email; instead, you are reading it from the server; hence it’s possible to read the same email from multiple devices. IMAP functions as an intermediary between the email client and the email server. The emails will remain in the server unless you delete them.

3 POP3

The POP3 (Post Office Protocol) is a standard mail protocol. The protocol is useful when one is receiving mails from a given remote server to their local email. It’s the third version of a widespread standard method used in receiving emails.

When using POP3, you have the comfort of downloading your email messages and later reading the email messages offline. This option is only possible if you have correctly configured your email program to work well with the POP3 protocol. Keep in mind that by default, this protocol can’t sync the contents of your offline inbox to your online counterpart. So if the device that stores the messages is lost or broken, you can lose all the stored ones.

In a result, if you want to access your account from multiple locations, this may not be the best option for you. The main advantage of using POP3 is that your email account uses less web space since your email messages are downloaded and stored in your PC.

How emails work?

Email travels through at least two SMTP servers that belong to the recipient and sender of the message. SMTP will first connect you to your email provider, then check the email header and recipient address. Once the destination is recognized, the server determines the domain location associated with the address in the Domain Name System.

The recipient’s SMTP server then delivers the message to the server’s mailbox until the intended user logs in to their e-mail account. When this happens, POP3 or IMAP forwards the new message to the recipient’s e-mail client for viewing.

We hope you enjoyed this article about SMTP, IMAP and POP3. For more information, please check out our other links, and if you have any question regarding this topic or anything else drop us message here or make a comment below.

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