Gmail enables IMAP

It’s nice to see that Gmail now supports (at least for some accounts) IMAP access. It will make talking to it from the iPhone much nicer — as I mentioned last week, IMAP is just a much better protocol.

It seems that they’re mapping labels to IMAP folders, which is an natural but non-trivial idea, as multiple labels can be assigned to a single email, but AFAIK IMAP doesn’t have the concept of a single email message in multiple folders. Also, the labels are per-conversation, not per-email, so the metaphors don’t line up perfectly. I wonder what happens to conversational labels if one uses IMAP to move a single email across folders…


  1. IIRC, the original Cyrus implementation (which was designed to replace CMU’s “everything and the kitchen sink, why are our file servers emiting smoke” AMS system in the mid-90s) did single message store. I haven’t used it enough to tell whether the interaction model would match what Google has.


  2. What if I’m currently using POP Gmail with Thunderbird, and I want to switch to IMAP. I already have thousands of messages in my inbox. Thousands of those are from old mbox files, other thousands are e-mails that arrived through POP Gmail, still others are e-mails from other POP accounts.

    I obviously don’t want to lose messages, and I don’t want any duplicate messages either.

    I’m probably not someone who should switch to IMAP then?


  3. Dick: I suspect they’re rolling it out progressively, as they do most features.

    Michaël: If you’re like most people using Gmail and Thunderbird with POP (like me), you’ve left the email on the server (gmail), so you can search it through the UI. So if you setup a new account for Gmail with IMAP, you’ll simply have a new view on the same data. Seems to work fine.


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