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Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP)

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Prerequisite – Protocols in Application Layer

Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) is an application layer protocol that operates as a contract for receiving emails from the mail server. It was designed by Mark Crispin in 1986 as a remote access mailbox protocol, the current version of IMAP is IMAP4. It is used as the most commonly used protocol for retrieving emails. This term is also known as Internet mail access protocol, Interactive mail access protocol, and Interim mail access protocol.

Features of IMAP :

  • It is capable of managing multiple mailboxes and organizing them into various categories.
  • Provides adding of message flags to keep track of which messages are being seen.
  • It is capable of deciding whether to retrieve email from a mail server before downloading.
  • It makes it easy to download media when multiple files are attached.

Working of IMAP :
IMAP follows Client-server Architecture and is the most commonly used email protocol. It is a combination of client and server process running on other computers that are connected through a network. This protocol resides over the TCP/IP protocol for communication. Once the communication is set up the server listens on port 143 by default which is non-encrypted. For the secure encrypted communication port, 993 is used.

Architecture of IMAP :

Advantages :

  • It offers synchronization across all the maintained sessions by the user.
  • It provides security over POP3 protocol as the email only exists on the IMAP server.
  • Users have remote access to all the contents.
  • It offers easy migration between the devices as it is synchronized by a centralized server.
  • There is no need to physically allocate any storage to save contents.

Disadvantages :

  • IMAP is complex to maintain.
  • Emails of the user are only available when there is an internet connection.
  • It is slower to load messages.
  • Some emails don’t support IMAP which makes it difficult to manage.
  • Many browser-based solutions are unavailable due to not support of IMAP.
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Last Updated : 22 Jan, 2021
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