Gmail Still Isn't Perfect, Even with Mail Fetcher


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 protected] 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 [email protected] on behalf of [email protected] 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.



I really hate the ‘on behalf of’ thing, it’s a reason why I can’t use this feature that seemed so handy. I am using gmail for my businessmail and for my private mail. When i purchase something privately, or email to somebody privately, do they need to what business I am? The reason I added my private gmail addy into my business gmail was to be able to send email from my private addy WITHOUT giving away my business addy. But that’s now all messed up cause of the ‘on behalf of’ thing.


The “on behalf of” issue annoys me to no end. Apparently the issue is that Gmail includes your Gmail address in the “Sender” header of all out-going e-mail, no matter what “personality” it was sent from. I have a account, which also allows multiple personalities but doesn’t give rise to “on behalf of” messages in Outlook — the difference appears to be that Fastmail uses the “X-Sender” header instead.

It’s a major shame, because I love the Gmail web interface, but I have to be able to use it to check and write from multiple e-mail aliases. So far, this issue is preventing me from doing that.

What is Gmail?

Yahoo and Hotmail have been able to read mail from other POP3 accoutns for years. I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about. This is what makes Gmail perfect?!? Then Hotmail was perfect circa 1998.


my assessment of traditional folder inbox type mail is for me it’s a no win scenario. Here are some things I find problematic:

– Cant search very quickly generally. Usually resorting to search by sender (oh right, FOO Sent that, let me scan all emails from…)
– No threading – the threading tends to break down or be inconsistent. Ooops I moved that 1 email out of the thread to the OTHER folder and now it doesnt appear.
– Even with threading, gmail’s thread view is superior to all others I have found.
– Folders: An email can really only exist in 1 folder at a time. Forces me to create taxonomies that I wish I didn’t have to create.
– Labels help – can label with multiple things. Labels can be removed w/o removing the email. Hooray!

Now all I wish for is a OSX Gmail client – in the sense it works offline, based on OSX but has a similar interface to Gmail. sigh.

Oskar Syahbana

POP3 on Gmail sucks… It failed a lot when you have a large numbers of email to be downloaded (and in the end if the connection is broken, you have to redownload everything).

But all in all, I love their interface and that’s why I subscribed to their hosted solutions :)


I am starting to like Gmail more everyday after using for the past 2 years, which is pretty good also. I have all my emails forwarded to my fusemail account and I can response using any of my email names that I like. The really only down fall of is paying a monthly fee.

Joshua Bloom


You can forward emails right from the top of the message by clicking on the down arrow at the top right of the message and selecting Forward.

You can also use the f keyboard shortcut to forward.



That “on behalf of” feature is a killer. When I started at RedMonk, I was using GMail for everything, including my address. However, because of that “on behalf of” crap, people would (a.) start using my GMail address instead of my one (some people still do!), and, (b.) several people thought my name was “Bushwald Cote'” to the point of sending some emails to others asking “who is this Bushwald guy?”

As a consequence to those misunderstandings, I switched to using with Act On to simulate Archiving and it’s worked out well.


I believe that the SMTP protocol allows for the user to define the “From” address for an email sent. Therefore if you were to write your own email client, you could send email from any address that you wished. The obvious drawback is that you would not be able to receive any responses to that email unless you have access to the email account that you listed in the “From” section. Because Gmail requires sending authentication(either you are logged into the website or you enter your username and password from an external client), it is guaranteed that you are allowed to be sending messages from that address and that it is a valid address for the person who receives the message to send email back to.

The point of the above paragraph was to point out that Gmail could allow users to specify a send address that would NOT include the “on the behalf of…” mumbo jumbo since users are either already authenticated on the website or will have to authenticate to send the message from Gmail’s SMTP servers.

I know that Thunderbird, my email client of choice, specifies both a “From” address and a “Sender” address specifying the SMTP defined “From” email address and the SMTP defined “Sender” that authenticated at the server to send the email.

Judi Sohn

Anne, you’re right. It is just a problem with Outlook. However, Gmail goes thorugh the step of requiring you to confirm that the address you want to use for the “From” does actually belong to you. So I’m not sure under what circumstances someone can use a spoof email address coming out of Gmail. I can change the “From” address in Outlook or to be anyone I want with no confirmation. I’m only limited by what my set SMTP server will let me get away with. Gmail already goes through that confirmation step, so the “on behalf of…” thing seems to be overkill.


I use gmail for my personal e-mail account. I have never found the interface all that helpful. For example there is not a simple forward button at the top of the message. That has always bothered me. Also, I find the conversational style to be a little troublesome as well.


For me gmail only isn’t enough, forward to my local webmail server then it’s true power since all spam eliminated by gmail power .

Anne Zelenka

Judi – I think Gmail may be acting appropriately in identifying itself as the sender because of the email forgery issue, and it’s MS Outlook that should do something different, not display the “on behalf of” BS. (I’m assuming you’re using Outlook… that’s where I have heard about the problem.)

I don’t see any great benefit in this either, though I have often thought I’d like to get my emails out of my Yahoo account and organize them into my gmail storage so they’d be searchable there.

@Deepak – I really like Gmail, it was the new Yahoo interface I couldn’t stand. Gmail is my main email interface.

Judi Sohn

re: the “on behalf of” thing…yeah, talk about going to elation to deflation quickly. I was thrilled to read that my Gmail account will eventually check POP email, but it loses its functionality until I can reply to email without it being obvious it’s coming from Gmail. I do it anyway. I forward all of my POP email (work and personal) to Gmail addresses. Then when I check email from my cell phone, I use Google’s nice little Java app to check Gmail instead of my phone’s brain-dead messaging app. My colleagues know that if they see the …on behalf of… that I’m on my phone.

I can’t see where turning this on will save me anything over the forwarding I’m currently doing. If anything, if my host is having trouble delivering email to my POP box but it does arrive at my host, I can check it in Gmail first when it’s not working in any other client (has happened from time to time).



I don’t blame you. I agree that the interface can be an acquired taste like OM says on his blog, but labels and keyboard shortcuts pretty much do it for me.

Anne Zelenka

Thanks for clarifying that POP is retrieve only, Bex. Seems like those who want the custom from: to work differently will likely be out of luck even with Mail Fetcher.

@Chris: Starbucks is just too rich a reference, isn’t it? Hard to avoid it.

@Deepak: I tried the new Yahoo client for maybe one day and then switched back to the old one–it was awful! I agree, gmail is very nice, and I use it as my main client, even if it does identify itself as the sender of my mail from my other addresses.

Chris Gilmer

This is a great new feature from Google – It allows for a lot of added convenience, especially if you find yourself checking five other email accounts throughout the day. Think of the extra time you can spend slacking off at Starbucks! [Note to self, no more Starbucks referencing.]


Barring the use of a POP Extension that would need to be supported by both gmail (they don’t appear to) and your other account, POP is a retrieve mail only protocol. You typically send with SMTP.

Therefore, the From line will not have a part with POP mail and will continue to behave in the manner described.


It’s not perfect, but its still by far my favorite way of doing email. I used to use it for pop, but I love the tagging and keyboard shortcuts so much, I use the web client exclusively now. It’s spam filter is light years ahead of yahoo (to pick another example). Yahoo’s new mail client is pretty much unusable and the spam is terrible, so I have pretty much abandoned it.

Things I’d like to see (which Liz does cover)

– better sorting
– improved integration with google calendar
– perhaps improved contact handling, but this has never been an issue

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