IMAP: What is it?

Email management can be done using an email client or directly from the server, through a web platform. To configure an email account, two connection protocols are mainly used, POP3 and IMAP. While the POP3 protocol (latest version of the POP protocol) was used as a standard since the beginning of the Internet, it has gradually been replaced by the IMAP protocol, due to the advantages it offers.  

Next, we’ll look at what IMAP is , how it’s different from POP3, and how it works.

What is IMAP


IMAP ( Internet Message Access Protocol ) is a protocol used to send and receive email messages . Along with POP3, it is the most used protocol when configuring an email account. 

With IMAP you can manage email directly on the server, since messages always remain there and are not downloaded locally.

What is the difference between IMAP and POP3 protocols

  • When using the IMAP protocol, messages remain on the server so they can be accessed from multiple connections or devices. With POP3 the messages are downloaded to the email client so multiple connections cannot be made to consult the messages.  

  • IMAP supports the use of flags that allow you to manage the status of messages (read, responded, unread or deleted). This information is saved on the server, although email clients such as Outlook or Firebird are able to interpret it.    

  • With IMAP you can create folders on the server to organize emails and synchronize them with various devices (computers, tablets, Smartphones, among others).  


  • It is possible to share a mailbox with other users using the IMAP protocol, something that cannot be done with POP3.  

Perhaps the only advantage of POP3 over IMAP is that if you do not have an Internet connection, you can consult the received emails, while with IMAP you would not have access to them. In addition, IMAP takes up a lot of space on the mail server while POP3 frees up space every time it is accessed.    

How an IMAP server works

On an IMAP server, an email client connects to the remote server to retrieve message information (their header). In this way you can view the messages that are currently available on the server, allowing simultaneous access from different devices .   

When you access one of the messages, you can see its content without having to download it to your computer , leaving the message stored on the server. 

We have seen what IMAP server is and what IMAP is for , the protocol that allows emails to be managed on the server itself. Setting up an email account with IMAP allows you to adapt to current needs , where you check your email on different devices, such as your home or office computer, your mobile phone, or even from a Smartwatch.