Yahoo and Hotmail were two of the most dominant email services back in the days and who could claim otherwise? It was free and most importantly, it was from Microsoft and Yahoo, two very big companies. Obviously there were other free email services as well but Yahoomail and Hotmail stood out the most. That is until Gmail from Google came along and wiped away the competition. Gmail was once a invite only email service when they first started but once it became public, they took over the email world by storm. Rather than comparing all of these email services to one another, I’m going to go over one very big reason why Gmail stands above the competition and that is due to their free offering of the Internet Mail Access Protocol (IMAP). If you never access your email other than via the web-based interface (your browser), than IMAP and the Post Office Protocol (POP) probably means nothing to you. However, if you are familiar with the Outlook, Windows Live Mail or Thunderbird desktop email clients (at work maybe?), than you’ll have already realize how important these protocols are, especially with IMAP.
I only recently realized that Yahoomail finally, and I mean FINALLY, offered IMAP access to its free user base, sorta. A friendly user asked for help in trying to set up his Outlook account with Yahoo and I explained to him what the deal was with POP3 and IMAP. Needless to say, he preferred IMAP over POP3 and that made me search out if any progress has been made by Yahoo in this department. Before, you either had to be a premium subscriber or you had to use third-party tricks and hacks to get IMAP working with your free Yahoomail account.
Here is the weird part though. Although Yahoo now provides IMAP access, it seems as if Yahoo didn’t do a good job portraying that info to their users! In fact, if you head over to the POP and Forwarding option menu within your Yahoomail account, you’ll see that Yahoo still makes you believe that you need to upgrade your account in order to use it with a desktop email client! In fact, it mentions nothing about IMAP itself but only POP! This makes me believe that what I’m about to show you is not a supported feature within Yahoomail so proceed with caution! Here, I’ll go over how to configure both Thunderbird 3 and Outlook 2010 email clients to work with your Yahoo mail account for IMAP access.
At its basics, IMAP and POP3 are protocols that allows a user to access and download their emails via a desktop email client such as Outlook or Thunderbird. To put it in simple terms, POP3 does not synchronize the actions between what you do with your emails in your desktop email client with the emails that’s actually living on the servers on Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail or wherever. For example, every time you start your email client, it would start downloading your emails onto your computer. If you delete an email within your email client and then empty the trash, than the email gone. The next time you log back in to your email account via the web, those emails will not show up unless you configure your email account to leave a copy of the email when accessed via POP3. But then by doing so, management of your emails will become a huge nightmare.
With IMAP, what you do with your emails on your desktop email client will correctly mirror or synchronize with the emails on the actual servers because you’re actually keeping a connection to the servers themselves. Think of it as using your email client to “interact” with your mail account on the mail servers. With POP3, the connection stays connected only long enough for you to download new emails. Once done so, the connection closes. Emails you delete or place into a different folder via IMAP from your email client for example, will also be correctly reflected when you login to your email account via the web interface. This makes managing email more easier than when using POP3 because everything is more synchronized and therefore, more organized as well. Obviously there are advantages and disadvantages when using either IMAP or POP3 but in my opinion, IMAP is far superior. I can’t stress enough how I really don’t know what the deal with Yahoo is concerning this IMAP issue. You need to really proceed here at your own risk because if something goes awry, I doubt you’ll be able to contact Yahoo for tech support! For example, if Yahoo one day catches you using IMAP to access your email when you are not suppose to and they all of a sudden deactivate your account, please don’t blame me! This scenario is highly unlikely but I just wanted to make a point: I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT HAPPENS!
Configuring IMAP access for Yahoomail within Thunderbird 3 is very, very simple. In fact, Thunderbird 3 does all of the work for us.
Create a new mail account by clicking File –> New –> Mail Account. Here, you’ll enter the basic information for your email account.
As soon as you hit Next, Thunderbird 3 will look at its database and give you some default settings that it thinks you will use. As you can see, it thinks we want to configure POP3 for this email account.
Luckily, though, if you select the IMAP radio button, Thunderbird is smart enough to configure the right settings automatically.
Once you hit the Create Account button, Thunderbird 3 will create your account and should begin downloading your emails. That’s pretty much it! I had no problem sending or receiving emails in Thunderbird with my Yahoo account. I never had to manually configure any settings myself.
Configuring Yahoomail for IMAP access in Outlook 2010 is relatively easy as well, although we have to manually configure the settings ourselves.
In Outlook 2010, click on File –> New Account button. Enter your email account’s personal information. When you have done so, be sure to click on the Manually Configure Server Settings radio button at the bottom before hitting Next.
In the next window, select the Internet Email radio button if it isn’t already.
OK, so now the real work begins. All you need to do is fill in your Yahoo mail account’s information. Be absolutely sure that you type in both the incoming and outgoing server letter for letter! Also, one other very important thing that you must not overlook is using your full email address in the “User Name” field. Do not just type in your email address without appending the @yahoo.com (or whatever domain you signed up for).
Next, hit the More Settings button. Click on the Advanced tab first. Once again, configure the same settings as you see here.
Next, select the Outgoing Server tab and follow the picture once again. Once done, hit the OK button and you should be taken back to the main settings menu.
Hit the Test Account Settings button and Outlook will see if it can connect to the IMAP server (incoming emails) along with sending a test email to your account (SMTP). If you have done everything correctly, you should pass both tests with flying colors. If the tests fail, go back and make sure you have every setting set correctly.At this point, you will most likely fail to complete the second test (sending test message). It can be frustrating but trust me, the same thing happened to me even after putting in the exact same settings as I have listed here. The trick? Keep retyping your password in the password field and retry each time. It’s weird but after a couple of tries, both tests finally completed.
Hit Next and Outlook will then create your new Yahoo account.UPDATE 08/03/11: Much thanks and appreciation goes out to commenter Nish for helping us finally get rid of both error messages listed below! He/she took the time to point out after using port 465 along with the SSL option for the Outgoing Server field, he/she did not receive any error messages while performing a send/receive. I initially had the settings at port 587 with no SSL. Thanks a ton Nish!
UPDATE 01/10/11: Thanks to a comment by “A Mills-McEwan”, we can at least get rid of the Send/Receive error in Outlook. He got it working under Outlook 2007 and I got the same results using Outlook 2010. You can find his solution to this problem by scrolling down to the comment section. It should be the first one.
This leaves us with only the ‘Update Header’ error. So, if anyone find a solution to this one, please share your findings!
In the End…
I’m glad that Yahoo finally provided IMAP access for their free user base although I’m not even sure if it’s legal or not. To me, Gmail is my email platform of choice not because of how much space they give me, the SPAM protection it offers or any other kind of features to lure in more users. I’m not saying those features aren’t needed but one of the main reasons for using Gmail is due to free IMAP access. It seems as if Hotmail and Yahoo were still stuck in the past while other email services are taking off. What they don’t understand is no matter how much you change the interface (sometimes just for the sake of calling it a change) users instead need robust features that they can use. Features that will make emails more engaging because although emails has been around for a long time, you can’t deny its usefulness. The ability to get a message across to users no matter where they reside at in a matter of seconds is phenomenal no matter how you look at it. Hopefully Yahoo will officially provide some documentation on what we have discussed here so I don’t have to feel like I’m doing something I’m not suppose to!