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Email Protocols: Where Do We Go Now?
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IMAP Clients for Mac OS X

Mac OS X is not short on clients that will happily talk to IMAP servers. The most obvious choice is Apple's own Mail application, which supports both without any fuss. It is not the speediest of IMAP clients, however, and the internet is stuffed full of annoyed Mail users publicly calling on Apple's engineers to make it faster. (Personally speaking, Mail's slowness with IMAP led me to abandon it after a few months of use.)

Two perfectly decent alternative GUI IMAP clients are Thunderbird and Eudora. Thunderbird earns extra positive karma thanks to being free, and while Eudora's somewhat outdated looks might put you off, its incredible speed and stability are well worth it. PowerMail and Entourage are also worth considering.

Mulberry has been around for a long time, and is a full-fledged (and now free) IMAP client. Despite many glowing reviews, it never really gained the large customer base it needed and sadly, last year, Mulberry's parent company went under. On the positive side, this brought about the re-release of the app as freeware, and, rumor has it, the hiring of Mulberry's creator Cyrus Daboo (described by company co-founder Matt Wall as "incredibly smart and dedicated") by Apple. Perhaps he's already begun working some of his magic there.

Of course, if you prefer your software without a GUI, there's always Mutt or Pine; Fink is there to make things easier for people lacking Unix-fu.

And Whatever The Heck Gmail Is

Gmail enjoys an excellent reputation right now, attracting lots of users--many of them serious geeks. Why? Because it offers excellent features, is fast and dependable, and free and flexible (it'll even let you use other email addresses, or handle email for an entire domain for you). It's not IMAP and it's not POP; it's webmail that Just Works, and that means a simpler experience for users and fewer headaches for administrators.

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Figure 2. Gmail Settings (Click for full-size image)

Is IMAP really going to replace POP? Or will webmail, in the form of Gmail and its inevitable competitors, render both of them redundant in the long term?

As we have seen in the last few days with the release of Google Apps for Your Domain, Gmail is just one aspect of a wider strategy on Google's part: an attempt to bring essential office or groupware applications to users through a browser. Gmail itself began life as an internal project, used by Google employees. In March 2004, an official beta testing phase began and a handful of outsiders were invited to join in. On April Fools Day that year, an official launch announcement was made--much to the amusement of almost everyone, since it was widely considered a joke.

That, in itself, demonstrates how innovative Gmail's approach was. So different was its design to traditional web-based email services, people were more inclined to think it was a practical joke than a real service.

And because it is webmail, Gmail neatly sidesteps any questions about email protocols. There's no need for users to consider whether they need a POP or an IMAP client; all they need is a browser (or a phone, or a PDA). Maybe even just a Chumby.

Pages: 1, 2, 3

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