Email Basics Explained

What are email protocols?

Whenever one speaks about email the word "protocol" comes up. This is a language that computers use to talk to each other. To understand email we need to know what these protocols are and the basics how they work. This will make it so much easier to solve any problem regarding email.

What email protocols exist?

  • POP (Post Office Protocol): POP is the old protocol used for fetching mail to your mail client.
  • IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol): IMAP is like POP for fetching mail. But when you use IMAP then the mail stays on the server.
  • SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol): SMPT is for sending mail out.
  • Exchange from Microsoft: Exchange is both for sending and receiving mail. But Microsoft being Microsoft everything is a bit special.
  • Gmail: Google can speak POP, IMAP, SMTP and Exchange. While Microsoft designs a completely new protocol Google uses the existing ones but in their style. This is why differences - especially in IMAP - will be explained in a separate section.

Which protocols do you use?

Except for Exchange you always use a combination of protocols. Whenever you send a message to someone you HAVE to use the the SMTP protocols. This needs an SMTP server with username and password. When you get messages then you can use either POP or IMAP. These also need a server with username and password. The server names will be different, but username and password are almost always the same.

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