Response to WP Article

Here's an email I just sent in response to this Washington Post article.

Hi Rob,

I just read "Internet Providers Should Find Their Way to IMAP" [1], your article on migrating email from POP3 to IMAP. I'm a UNIX system administrator and programmer by day, and, as a hobby, I provide email and web site hosting for a handful of family members, friends, and small businesses. I'd like to share my experience configuring various mail servers (also referred to as daemons), and offer some advice for readers asking about IMAP or looking for a decent email client, and for ISPs touting the high cost of providing IMAP service.

For readers looking for a decent email client, I recommend Mozilla Thunderbird [2]. Thunderbird is free, easy to use, and available for several operating systems. Thunderbird is also small (about the size of a decent quality MP3 file), and easy to install; my parents were able to switch from Outlook to Thunderbird without any assistance from me or their ISP. Best of all, Thunderbird is immune to existing email worms and viruses, has powerful built-in spam filtering, supports signed and encrypted email, and can communicate with secure email servers (POP3s and IMAPs). Oh, Mac users might want to try Mail [3], which comes pre-installed in recent versions of MacOS and supports many of the features I mentioned above.

As for ISPs, offering IMAP can be a real pain. Three of the most popular IMAP daemons are Cyrus IMAPd, Courier IMAPd, and UW-IMAP [4]. The problem with all of them is essentially the same: each requires complicated and haphazard configuration, and none integrate gracefully with existing server configurations. For example, the IMAP daemons listed above store email messages on the server in MH or Maildir format, while most UNIX systems and POP3 daemons store email messages in mbox format.

The solution? An IMAP daemon called Dovecot [5]. Dovecot is a free POP3 and IMAP daemon which supports mbox and Maildir mail spool formats, supports IMAPs and POP3s, and is incredibly easy to set up. In Debian Linux [6], Dovecot basically configures itself. Dovecot also supports the most common user authentication schemes out of the box: PAM, /etc/passwd, and LDAP. Dovecot works great in Linux and Solaris (the two most common UNIX variants used by ISPs), and also in other operating systems such as FreeBSD and MacOS.

I'm available to answer questions from readers about IMAP and IMAP daemons. I can be reached via email at pabs@pablotron.org or paul@paulduncan.org.

References:

  1. "Internet Providers Should Find Their Way to IMAP": http://tinyurl.com/5kzbc
  2. Mozilla Thunderbird: http://mozilla.org/products/thunderbird/
  3. Apple Mail: http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/mail/
  4. Cyrus, Courier, and UW-IMAP: http://asg.web.cmu.edu/cyrus/imapd/, http://www.courier-mta.org/, and http://www.washington.edu/imap/ (respectively)
  5. Dovecot: http://www.dovecot.org/
  6. Debian Linux: http://www.debian.org/

--
Paul Duncan <pabs@pablotron.org>
http://www.pablotron.org/

Update: Changed the WP URL to a TinyURL link instead, in order to fix page reflow.