IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)
Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) is a protocol for e-mail retrieval and storage.
The Internet Message Access Protocol (commonly known as IMAP) is an
Application Layer Internet protocol that allows an e-mail client to
access e-mail on a remote mail server. The current version, IMAP version
4 revision 1 (IMAP4rev1), is defined by RFC 3501. An IMAP server
typically listens on well-known port 143. IMAP over SSL (IMAPS) is
assigned well-known port number 993.
IMAP supports both on-line and off-line modes of operation. E-mail
clients using IMAP generally leave messages on the server until the user
explicitly deletes them. This and other characteristics of IMAP
operation allow multiple clients to manage the same mailbox. Most e-mail
clients support IMAP in addition to Post Office Protocol (POP) to
retrieve messages; however, fewer e-mail services support IMAP. IMAP
offers access to the mail storage. Clients may store local copies of the
messages, but these are considered to be a temporary cache.
Incoming e-mail messages are sent to an e-mail server that stores
messages in the recipient's e-mail box. The user retrieves the messages
with an e-mail client that uses one of a number of e-mail retrieval
protocols. Some clients and servers preferentially use vendor-specific,
proprietary protocols, but most support SMTP for sending e-mail and POP
and IMAP for retrieving e-mail, allowing interoperability with other
servers and clients. For example, Microsoft's Outlook client uses MAPI,
a Microsoft proprietary protocol to communicate with a Microsoft
Exchange Server. IBM's Notes client works in a similar fashion when
communicating with a Domino server. All of these products also support
POP, IMAP, and outgoing SMTP. Support for the Internet standard
protocols allows many e-mail clients such as Pegasus
Mail or Mozilla Thunderbird to access these servers, and allows the
clients to be used with other servers.
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