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RISMEDIA, July 25, 2009-The other day I was pondering the fact that e-mail was one of the first uses of the Internet. E-mail was there before the World Wide Web and websites, before bulletin boards, blogs, wikis and social networking sites.

What is interesting to me is that e-mail is basically the same-the way it works hasn’t changed. Our customer support for setting up e-mail accounts hasn’t changed much. While the e-mail clients have improved dramatically (so we can manipulate and direct/redirect messages), the e-mail protocol itself remains basically the same.

As we have discussed in previous columns, there are actually three protocols for e-mail:

• POP-Post Office Protocol
• IMAP-Internet Message Access Protocol
• HTTP-Access to e-mail over the Web, also known as webmail

In a simplistic description, e-mail messages are directed (and collected) in a mailbox (usually called an Inbox) that is supplied by your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or your e-mail host. This Inbox collects all the e-mail addressed to you (or your aliases that forward to you).

Most e-mail users use the POP protocol to collect their e-mail. When you POP your e-mail, you are telling your e-mail client to go to your e-mail account and fetch the e-mail. A point to note, while you can instruct your client/server to leave a copy of the e-mail on the server, you are only dealing with one “box” (called the Inbox).

You can also use the IMAP protocol. As I have described before, in my opinion, IMAP is the best protocol for you, as you can have multiple mailboxes, share them with partners (customers, clients) and synchronize with as many devices (computers/smart phones, etc.) as you like. However, in order for IMAP to be possible, your e-mail host has to allow it (and most don’t).

The last protocol-HTTP (webmail)-has been improving dramatically as well.

Mike Barnett is CTO/VP of Technology for InternetCrusade’s RealTown.com.

For more information, visit www.realtown.com or e-mail Mike@MikeBarnett.com.

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