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Summary:

Yesterday, Google launched offline support for Gmail, a feature that’s been long anticipated by the service’s users. The feature is being gradually rolled out to UK and U.S. users and will be available via the Labs area of Gmail’s Settings page. Using Google’s Gears platform, the […]

Yesterday, Google launched offline support for Gmail, a feature that’s been long anticipated by the service’s users. The feature is being gradually rolled out to UK and U.S. users and will be available via the Labs area of Gmail’s Settings page.

Using Google’s Gears platform, the new capability enables users to maintain a local cache of messages which is kept synchronised with Gmail’s servers when and if connectivity becomes available. Features include the ability to read, star and label messages as well as queue messages to be sent from the user’s outbox. Google’s claiming they’re able to provide a near-live representation of the service when in offline mode.You can read Kevin Tofel’s initial impressions of Gmail’s offline support over at jkOntheRun.

Gmail has long offered offline support through standards-based POP and IMAP interfaces, enabling users to wire their Gmail to their email client of choice. Personally, I utilize Gmail’s web interface when connected and, when offline, access my mailboxes through a combination of Gmail’s IMAP support, coupled with Apple Mail. Though these features have worked well historically, even IMAP folders don’t map cleanly onto Gmail’s folder structure – and there can be minor glitches in synchronisation.

What Google is promising is the ability to work in the same environment and with the same features, both offline and online, a precedent that casts some doubt over the usefulness of rich Internet clients, such as those built on Adobe AIR.

Interestingly, buried in today’s news was the announcement that, Hotmail is finally adding POP3 supporteleven years after Microsoft acquired the service! We’ve previously covered how it’s possible to jailbreak Hotmail data and transfer messages out of the ageing app.

If anything illustrates why data portability is important in web-based services (and for web workers), it’s this reality; Microsoft passed an 11-year sentence of imprisonment on its users’ personal data and is now paying the price with a 5 percent decline in its user numbers.

Read more at the Official Gmail blog and Hotmail Now Does POP3.

Have you tried Gmail’s offline support?

  1. I’m looking forward to trying out the “Flaky Connection” mode in Gmail’s offline support as shown in Kevin’s screenshots!

    I wish I could drop my Hotmail account but I have friends who still will not update their address books! So I have to keep it going – at least with POP I should be able to pull the mails into Gmail and never have to go back to the Hotmail site.

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  2. Didn’t hotmail have POP3 support a few years ago, but they dropped it, (or tried to make you pay for it or something)?

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  3. I’d be curious to see these stats broken down by age demographic. I work with some e-mail lists of 16-18 year olds. Not only is Hotmail more popular than Gmail by a 3 to 1 margin, Hotmail has grown year over year and by a larger margin than Gmail.

    I certainly wouldn’t count Microsoft out of this game yet. Not to mention those who download e-mail from other services into Microsoft products (Outlook, Outlook Express, Live Mail…).

    Yahoo still accounts for more users among this demographic on my lists than Hotmail and Gmail combined, accounting for 35-40% of the list.

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  4. @John B – Yes, there was a tool called Outlook Connector which allowed Outlook and Outlook Express to sync messages and folders with Hotmail.

    @Rob S – I agree, it’s impossible to count Microsoft out and indeed Hotmail’ll remain a large part of millions of lives for years to come. However, it’s important to note the pace of change and innovation in competing services – notably Gmail and Yahoo Mail where there’s a degree of flexbility and data portability that Microsoft is sadly lacking. I’d be sad to see Hotmail decline – but it’s really hard to recommend it any more.

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  5. I was excited when I saw this post in Google Reader “Finally I can get my Hotmail where ever!

    Then, my hopes were dashed. There are, like all things, caveats.

    The site that you have here just gives the nuts-and-bolts of setting it up. Steve inturn got his information from Sarah In Tampa where I was saddened to read the following:

    If you live in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, Japan, Spain, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands then you have a new way to get your Hotmail on your mobile phone: via POP3. The POP3 protocol is a standard email protocol that lets you retrieve email messages from a server and deliver them to your designated program. With this functionality in place, you can easily add Hotmail to your Windows Mobile phone, iPhone, or BlackBerry.

    and

    If you don’t live in one of the regions specified, the Hotmail team says not too worry – they will be rolling out POP3 to other parts of the world later this year.

    I live in the US, home of Microsoft and Hotmail. Where’s the love? Where’s the POP?

    Truthfully, I don’t really use my Hotmail for much more than a throw away anymore but I’ve had the account since forever and some people still insist on sending me email there. It would have been nice to have it with all my other emails in Gmail.

    Oh well… I guess I have to keep Outlook for a while longer. damn.

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  6. @vcnickels I’d recommend looking at our post on ‘Jailbreaking Hotmail’ at http://webworkerdaily.com/2008/04/26/jailbreaking-hotmail/

    I moved 8 years of Hotmail messages to a Gmail account using this method and have never looked back :)

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  7. I wonder if you can set up Gmail’s mail fetcher to grab your Hotmail…

    http://tinyurl.com/2bguoo

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  8. @Imran Ali & John B: Hotmail DID have POP3 support until about November 2005 (at least that’s the date of my last hotmails in Outlook before the Outlook Connector came). But then they dropped it claiming there was too much spamming abuse of that service and it was only available to paying “Hotmail Plus!” customers anymore. Then, a few months ago, there came the Outlook Connector (which I’m currently using, but Hotmail isn’t my primary address anymore since they dropped POP3) which lets you synchronize your Hotmail data (including calendars and contacts) through an Outlook plug-in. Quite useful, but still – IMAP would be cool, too…

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  9. [...] so. In particular there has been lots of useful Labs features released (see our recent coverage of Offline, Multiple Inboxes, Canned Responses, Title Tweaks, Tasks and [...]

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  10. [...] Labs: a way to “undo” sent messages, using canned responses for smart autoresponders, offline support using Gears and how to customize the way you view your mailbox using multiple [...]

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