We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Internet Message Access Protocol?

By Kurt Inman
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Internet Message Access Protocol is one of the two most common e-mail retrieval protocols. Also known by the acronym IMAP, it is an Internet protocol which operates at the Application Layer. With IMAP, a mailbox can be read and managed simultaneously by a number of different e-mail clients. IMAP is frequently used by a large percentage of Internet users to download e-mail from web mail servers.

Originally called Interim Mail Access Protocol, the first version of IMAP has undergone several revisions since it was created in 1986. Version 2 was published in 1988 as Request For Comments (RFC) 1064 by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). It changed the IMAP acronym to Interactive Mail Access Protocol and it was revised again in 1990 by RFC 1176. A Version 2 enhancement supporting Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) is the basis for Version 4. Although it was proposed in 1993, IMAP Version 3 was never adopted and was discarded in favor of Version 4.

Now called Internet Message Access Protocol, Version 4 became the standard in 1994, published in RFC 1730. Design flaws caused it to be replaced in 1996 by IMAP Version 4 Revision 1, which was refined again in 2003 by RFC 3501. All prior versions and revisions are effectively obsolete and unused.

Post Office Protocol (POP) is the other common Internet protocol for e-mail retrieval. Most e-mail servers and clients support Internet Message Access Protocol and POP in addition to their own unique protocols. Compared to POP, IMAP has many advantages including the ability to load a portion of an e-mail rather than wait for all attachments. It can also stream message content using the MIME mechanism. IMAP clients also tend to stay connected to a mail server for longer periods, which can improve overall response time.

Changes to mailbox and message status made by other simultaneously-connected clients are stored on the mail server by IMAP. Since POP does not do this, it has no way to determine whether another client has already read a message, for example. Some Internet Message Access Protocol servers also support customized keyword tags attached to e-mail messages. IMAP also provides an efficient server-based system to search a mailbox for specific content without downloading all the messages.

Server mailbox and message management functions are included in IMAP, allowing clients to easily modify mailboxes. Extensions to the core Internet Message Access Protocol features are also supported. One of the more common extensions creates an efficient means for mobile devices to store copies of sent e-mails. IMAP also encrypts user and password information during login, rather than exposing it in plain text like some other protocols.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.