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Difference between IMAP and SMTP

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1. Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) : 
It is an application layer protocol that operates as a contract for receiving emails from the mail server. It was designed as a remote access mailbox protocol, the current version of IMAP is IMAP4. It is used as the most commonly used protocol for retrieving emails. This term is also known as Internet mail access protocol, Interactive mail access protocol, and Interim mail access protocol 

Features of IMAP : 

  • It is capable of managing multiple mailboxes and organizing them into various categories.
  • Provides adding of message flags to keep track of which messages are being seen.
  • It is capable of deciding whether to retrieve email from a mail server before downloading.
  • It makes it easy to download media when multiple files are attached. 

2. Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) :
It is a protocol that is used for sending communication information from one computer to another using email addresses. SMTP is used to set up communication rules between the servers. It offers various modes of communication such as a single message to many clients, sending audio, video files, etc.  It provides error handling capabilities and replies to an error message.

Features of SMTP : 

  • It is widely used for “Mail Relaying” in which the email is routed from one SMTP server to another to reach its destination.
  • It also provides checking for errors in messages and taking action for them.
  • It provides certain conditions for mail forwarding, which includes the user changing its email-address.
  • SMTP servers provide features to be configured as email gateway.

Difference between IMAP and SMTP :




1. It is short for Internet Message Access Protocol. It is short for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol.
2. Designed by Mark Crispin in 1986.  Designed by RFC 821 in 1982.
3. It is used for retrieving or pulling emails for the recipient.. It is for sending or pushing email from an unknown mail server to another mail server.
4. It only functions between client and server for communication. It functions between servers for the transfer of information.
5. The Port number used for IMAP is 143 and 993 for secure connection (SSL/TSL connection). The Port number used for SMTP is 25, 465 and 587 for secure connection (TSL encrypted).
6. It works as message transfer agent between user and server. It works as message transfer agent between servers
7. Users can organize mails onto the server. Users can organize mails on client storage.
8. It offers multiple change flexibility across all the devices It offers the email to be changes after being sent successfully.
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Last Updated : 02 Nov, 2021
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