Google has announced Gmail access via POP3 to other email accounts. Mail Fetcher is only available to a “limited number of users” but once you get it, you’ll have one more way to use GMail as your main email client. Mike Arrington says Gmail Just Got Perfect. Did it really?
POP, a.k.a. the Post Office Protocol, allows you to download email messages from another server into your Gmail account. This differs from simply forwarding messages from the external account because you can get at messages that you received prior to enabling the forwarding. So if you have lots of old email that you’d like to fetch into your Gmail account and make it searchable, you should be able to do it with Mail Fetcher. Going forward, though, it’s not obvious how POP access is significantly better than simply forwarding from the additional account… unless for some reason your external account offers POP but not forwarding. For context, Yahoo only enables forwarding and POP access in its $19.99/year Yahoo! Mail Plus. If you can’t forward mail from your Yahoo account, you can’t get it by POP either.
Might this mean the “on behalf of email@example.com” will no longer appear on emails with a custom from address? Perhaps not, if you follow the link on the Mail Fetcher announcement to the information about custom from addresses. The customized Gmail ‘From:’ address for POP3-accessed accounts looks like it will function just like the custom from addresses already available. Your Gmail address is included in the email header’s sender field, and some email clients, notably Microsoft Outlook, will display this as “From firstname.lastname@example.org on behalf of email@example.com.” Perhaps this meets some anti-spoofing/anti-spam standards. Any WWD readers aware of Internet mail standards that might apply? If an account is accessed via a POP client, can that client represent itself as sending from that email address?
Gmail still lacks IMAP capabilities, which would allow online and offline access with synchronization to other mail clients, something that’s becoming increasingly important as we access our email from all sorts places and devices. Even if Google implements a disconnected version of their interface, that doesn’t entirely solve the anywhere access problem, because many devices can’t access the standard or mobile version of Gmail. But lots of software talks IMAP.
For more ways Gmail could get closer to perfect, see Liz Gannes’ Please Add These Features to Gmail. Be sure to read the comments too–WWD readers have lots of ideas for ways to make Gmail better.