IMAP is a shorthand for Internet Message Access Protocol. It is a very popular method of accessing the mails(Electronic) and Bulletin Board from the mail server (may be shared). We can say that it enables the clients to access the mail from remote locations as if they are local.
Its ability to access mails from more than one computer has very important as the use of emails and that t use of multiple computers has increased.
Goals of IMAP.
Completely compatible with Internet message Standards.
Allow to access the messages from more than computers.
Use of reliable File access protocols.
Support for all the three modes, i.e. Online, Offline and Disconnected.
Supports concurrent Access to shared mailboxes.
Client software can be innocent about the server File store format.
IMAP includes the operations for all creating, deleting and renaming mail boxes, reading new mails, permanent delete, setting and resetting of flag, parsing(MIME and RFC-2822), etc.
If you think for using its not a bad idea, its free for gmail.
POP3 is other mailing protocol which is also widely used although it is less capable from IMAP.Lets see which are advantages over POP that makes IMAP a better protocol for mailing.
- Connected and Disconnected modes of operations.
- Multiple client can simultaneously connect to the same mail box.
- Acces to the MIME message parts and fetching.
- Message State information.
- Multiple Mailboxes on the same server.
- It allows Server Side searches.
- It includes built in extension mechanism
Allowing so many of the facilities and features IMAP inherits some additional complexity and overhead. but we can that it is the best protocol used for the purpose it is intended for.