Thursday, February 02, 2006

Gmail is a terrible pop server

I have put my trust in Google and forwarded most of my mail accounts to my gmail account. As part of this I wanted to use gmail as my focus of mail reading.

But I want to be able to read and compose email offline on my laptop, so I want to use a rich email client. And I want to use multiple clients on multiple computers. Gmail's feeble support for the POP protocol makes this difficult.

Here are the problems:

Gmail wants you to never delete your old mail. This is part of their "new way" of handling e-mail, and I can understand the justification. Unfortunately many POP email clients are usually configured to delete old messages from the POP server after they are downloaded. Perhaps reasonably, Gmail has decided to ignore this aspect of the POP protocol, so your messages on the Gmail server are not deleted by your POP email client. So far this is all justifiable. Somehow this has led Gmail to ignore other POP functionality in annoyingly useless ways.

I like to read my email from multiple computers, each with a current and complete archive of my mails. Using decent and reasonable POP servers such as that provided by Comcast or other large ISPs, each client is able to sychronize with the POP server, downloading only those emails which that particular client has not yet seen before. This makes me happy.

When I tried to get this same behavior from Gmail's POP server I could not. My choices seem to be as follows:

1) Each client can download every mail I have ever received at gmail at one time, including duplicates of any messages I got on that client before. This results in multiple copies of every email. This is so far beyond unacceptable that I will not discuss this further.

2) Each client can download only those messages newer than those last downloaded by ANY email client of mine. This process puts distinct subsets of my email on each client, depending upon when I connect with each one. This too sucks very very very badly.


Use a real POP server. I created another special purpose email account at Comcast. The purpose of this account is to provide a decent POP interface to Gmail. I never use this special account to send, nor to directly receive any mails. A copy of every mail that comes to my gmail account is forwarded to this special comcast mail account. My email clients now sync with the special comcast email account and all is joy and happiness.

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