What does POP3 mean?

POP3 is a network protocol for the transmission of e-mails. It is the third version of the Post Office Protocol and regulates communication between two computers. In POP3, commands are defined that two computers communicating with each other can use to send queries. Next to IMAP, the Post Office Protocol is the most common protocol for sending e-mails.

In order for a mail client such as Thunderbird or Outlook to be able to communicate with the mail server, both must be able to handle POP3. If an e-mail arrives on the mail server, it will be saved there. When retrieving the mail from the Internet user’s mail client, a request is sent to the mail server via Post Office Protocol. The latter then downloads the e-mail in question onto the Internet user’s computer. This is where one of the two fundamental differences to IMAP becomes apparent: While the e-mails remain on the server by default when they are retrieved from an IMAP e-mail account and are only read out by the e-mail client, with POP3 they are completely downloaded. A copy of the e-mails only remains on the mail server with a special setting.

This introduces another difference between POP3 and IMAP. The ability to synchronize mail clients. This is not possible with Post Office Protocol. Example: If a mail is read on a POP3 account and marked accordingly, the mail server does not receive this information. The reason is that POP3 only allows e-mails to be retrieved, listed and deleted. If the e-mail account is now accessed from another PC, e-mails that have already been read are displayed as unread. A POP3 account is therefore not recommended for users who access their mail account from multiple computers. IMAP should be used here.

You can find more information about the Post Office Protocol here.

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