What is POP - its use, importance and function
POP or Post Office Protocol is a technology used for downloading messages from an email server to your computer. Just like most other things on the internet, email too is based on the client-server model and POP is the language used in the communication between an email clients and a server.
Are POP and POP3 the same thing?
Yes! POP3 is actually version #3 of the Post Office Protocol and this means the technology has gone through a couple of iterations before finally arriving in its present form.
Did you know that when someone sends you an email, it doesn't arrive directly at your computer? The message first comes to a computer that's connected to the internet 24/7 and is stored there. Such a computer is known as a web server and to receive email messages it runs a special program called the email server. Depending on the kind of access allowed, you can check your emails using a web browser or employ a dedicated email program (also known as an email client).
Email clients are programs that let you send and receive email messages from your computer. There are several popular free email clients like Outlook Express, Windows Mail Vista, Windows Live Mail and Thunderbird. If you use Windows, you already have an email program pre-installed on your system - Outlook Express on Windows XP and Windows Mail on Vista. Some time back Microsoft released a new email client which they call Windows Live Mail meant to "replace" Outlook Express and Windows Mail Vista. Get step by step instructions on how to download Windows Live Mail and install it on your computer.
Importance and usage of POP
The POP technology is used to build a communication channel between an email client and a server. It sets rules for downloading email messages that are stored on an online hard disk to your local computer hard disk. Using POP you can download all emails to your computer and, thus, view them anywhere you want - even without an internet connection. Yes, an active internet line is required to download messages from the server but once they come to your computer, you can sever the connection.
You'll appreciate the importance of POP if you have ever faced a problem in accessing email messages (even the old ones) from an online account such as Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail or Gmail. Maybe the net connection wasn't working properly, maybe you were at a location where internet wasn't available or maybe the email service was down... whatever. And frustration is what follows.
Now imagine the brighter scenario of keeping a copy of all your emails on your computer using a using POP enabled email program. Agreed you'll still not be able to check for new messages but you at least have access to old ones.
Do all email servers use POP?
No - it depends on the service provider and the web server configuration. Typically, email accounts from ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and those you create on your web site come with POP access. Online email service providers like Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, AOL and Gmail have different policies when it comes to POP access. For instance, you can enable POP on Gmail accounts for free - you can do this yourself. Yahoo! Mail charges you about $20 per year access your account through POP. For Windows Live Hotmail users, there is some good news finally; POP on Hotmail is gradually being rolled out - it's available only to subscribers in some countries at the time of writing and I hope it will soon be included on all accounts.
Why don't all email services allow POP access?
Well, since the protocol lets you to download messages to your computer via an email client, you'll have no need to checking your messages on the web based service. This means you would hardly ever log in to your online account and, thus, would not "pay" for your free access by either looking at the advertisements or, less so, clicking on them! All free web based email accounts, even Gmail, are supported by the advertising. The companies show these ads expecting subscribers to compensate the privilege of free access by checking out the sponsored products or services.
How do you access email through POP - Post Office Protocol?
As mentioned above, your email service should provide you with a POP access. Please check with them. Once you get a POP enabled email account, all you need is an email client that can use the Post Office Protocol. Windows users are lucky because a free email client is available on all versions. In fact, Microsoft has released the new Windows Live Mail email client which can be downloaded for free from their web site.
Accessing emails through POP is a simple affair. You only need the username, password and the email server address. The incoming email server address is, typically, pop.THE-DOMAIN-NAME.com or simply THE-DOMAIN-NAME.com. For step by step instructions on using POP with Windows based email clients please refer the list below:
- Setup new email account in Outlook Express
- Configure Gmail on Outlook Express
- Configure email account on Windows Mail Vista
- Add Gmail on Windows Mail Vista
- Setup Windows Live Mail email client
- Setup and configure Gmail on Windows Live Mail
FYI, the Post Office Protocol is employed only for downloading emails and goes hand in hand with SMTP or the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol which is used for sending emails.
POP enabled email account can also be accessed via a web browser as long as the service provider has put up an interface (a graphical user interface, usually) through which the account can be managed.
Comments, questions, feedback... whatever!
Page contents: Understanding POP, how it is used and its function in retrieving email messages from the server.
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