The view from the 86th floor

POP Beats the Web Mail
Wikipedia's article on Cerf & Kahn's original Internet protocol

Martin Kadansky's article about problems with webmail

“Trouble at Yahoo...” article on a recent Yahoo webmail outage

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Thomas Computer Services Web Site
In 1974, Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn devised a way for computers and other devices connected to a network to communicate with each other.  This set of rules governing the transmission of data between devices is known as a “protocol.”  Their work was later divided into various other protocols as more computers and users were added to the network.  In this way, the Internet was hatched, and folks immediately dreamed up new ways to use it.  Every Internet thing we do is controlled through these protocols.  Browse the web, and it's HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol); transfer files to and from a server, and it's FTP (file transfer protocol); check your email using Outlook, Windows Mail or Apple Mail, and it's POP (post office protocol.)  Most folks don't use FTP at all because HTTP can be used for getting files.  Many folks these days also use HTTP to browse their email and this method is referred to as webmail.

Webmail works with accounts that your Internet service provider gives you as well as free accounts from AOL, Yahoo and Google, to name just a few.  It's quick and convenient when it works, and any computer connected to the Internet can be used.  But compared to POP email, webmail has limitations of which you should be aware.

To begin with, all web pages must deal with the various versions of each of Windows, Macintosh OS and Linux, and the various browsers that can be used with them.  Further, Microsoft considers itself to be the six hundred pound gorilla that everyone else ought to accommodate, and purposefully, even maliciously (so it seems) provides a moving target for Yahoo and the others, whom Microsoft considers to be its competition in many cases.  Poor Yahoo and Google have a hard time keeping up and users sometimes face service slowdowns and even total shutdowns.  Apart from such problems, webmail users are advised to keep their browsers up to date by upgrading to newer versions as they are released, and it's not a bad idea to keep an alternate browser, like Firefox on hand for when your main browser can't get to your mail.

Using POP email is more like using a word processor and certain features of POP may be limited or missing in webmail, like spell check, text formatting, working with multiple messages and multiple accounts, email “signatures,” flagging messages, filtering out junk messages, searching and sorting messages and being able to see the size of each message.

The main DISadvantage of POP email is that it can be daunting to set up, though John and your service provider stand ready to assist with this, and it only has to be done once for each computer you use.  Even with all of the above, we are advised to keep at least one webmail-only account for secondary purposes-- they are free after all.  Otherwise, it's best to use the account provided with your Internet service through a POP email client program like Windows Live Mail.
January 6, 2014

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