Oh Yes, I Forgot… IMAP Sucks

I spent about 24 hours with my “fully-featured” client-side mail application and new Gmail+IMAP support before I went back to mail.google.com. The web interface is just better.

Rant 1: My Love/Hate Relationship with Exchange

The MS Exchange protocol is so much better than POP/IMAP that it makes me want to cry. I’m no MS fanboy, but I don’t know of an open alternative that comes close.

  • When I send mail does it go to my local sent folder, or the IMAP folder?”
  • Why do I even have these local folders? What good are they?”
  • How do I search all the server-side messages?”

All of these questions arise because desktop mail apps are designed around the old POP model — they assume that you might want to bring mail down, locally. I don’t. I want to leave it in the cloud where it belongs. The Exchange guys apparently figured this out a long time ago.

Rant 2: Net Apps == Web Apps

Years ago I used client-side RSS readers on multiple machines. My list of feeds was always out of sync. I also read many articles twice. First Bloglines and eventually Google Reader solved this for me. The web app is ideal here. I don’t fly much so I don’t care about offline access (although Gears delivers this too).

Email is the same. 99% of the email experience is being on the net. Sure you can do some things offline, but not much. So why waste time on the sync problem? Just assume the network, move the whole application to the server side, and you are done.

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4 Responses to “Oh Yes, I Forgot… IMAP Sucks”


  1. 1 Azeem Jiva November 1, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Actually the Unix mail reader “mutt” lets you specify exactly where things go. Deletes can move messages to the IMAP server, as does sent mail as well. I believe thunderbird does this too, not sure though

  2. 2 Mark November 1, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Yes I have used mail apps with this feature as well. It always defaults to the local boxes, which was a smart decision 10 years ago and a dumb one today.

    The point is that I have to think about it, and whenever something makes me think I get angry. I really hate thinking 🙂

    Forwarding all my mail to Gmail, and using their web interface, has dramatically improved things for me. For example, I used to worry about things like backing up my mail archives. And then there is the mail search thing. Don’t even get me started…

  3. 3 smoothE November 2, 2007 at 10:44 am

    I don’t know what mail client you are using, but here’s a good webpage talking about how to *correctly* setup gmail IMAP in Mail.app and on an iPhone. It addresses the problem of Sent mail going local vs being kept on the server, etc.
    http://5thirtyone.com/archives/862

  4. 4 Mark November 2, 2007 at 11:05 am

    That’s a good link, thanks.

    How does search work? One the the big benefits of mail.google.com is search.

    Is there an obvious advantage to the desktop app that I am missing?


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