The folks over at Download Squad have stumbled across persuasive evidence that Google is adding IMAP support to Gmail. While the option to use IMAP has not showed up in my Gmail account yet (or any other bloggers’ for that matter), they point to this Google help center page, which confirms the speculation. We’ve been tracking new Gmail features for some time; IMAP was the final piece of the puzzle.
IMAP support has been the primary reason I have personally held back from using Gmail for my primary email account. If you don’t know about IMAP, it allows you to manage your email account from different computers and clients without having to worry about replication issues. For example, if you delete an email message in Thunderbird, that message will no longer show up when you use a webmail interface. If you were to use POP – the primary alternative to IMAP – then you would have to manually delete the message from both places because a copy of each message would be downloaded to Thunderbird. Therefore, IMAP provides a much more synchronized solution whereas POP fails to realize that you want to deal with your email once for all points of access.
We’ll have to see how Google plans to monetize Gmail with IMAP, since enabling IMAP means that people like me will almost never bother to use the webmail interface, and therefore never see Google advertisements. Maybe they are betting that most people will simply not use IMAP, or maybe they have other advertising tricks up there sleeves. Perhaps it’s too early to speculate until we actually see this feature enabled for everyone.
Update: It’s official.