FastMail supports IMAP access to email for all account levels. We only support POP access for Full and Enhanced users. We highly recommend that you use IMAP where possible.
POP is a very simple protocol that only allows downloading of messages from your Inbox to your local computer. Generally, once transferred, the email is then on your local computer and is removed from FastMail.
IMAP is a much more advanced protocol that allows you to see all your folders on FastMail, and quickly view subjects and message bodies of emails, but delay downloading of larger emails (such as those with attachments) to a later time if you want. IMAP also allows you to synchronise mail folders between your home machine and FastMail on the web, so that you see the same folders and messages wherever and however you access your email.
|Flexibility||Can view just message headers, and then choose which messages to download||Have to download all messages at once|
|Can delete/move a message without having to download it||Have to download all messages|
|Can download just text body of a message||Have to download entire message (including any large attachments)|
|Synchronization||Can view messages in all folders||Can only download messages from Inbox|
|Any changes made via web interface or email software (eg move message, add flags, etc) appears in the other automatically||Once downloaded, changes only made on local email software|
|Can access messages both at home/work, and on the road through the web interface||Once downloaded, can only access messages at home/work|
|Safety||All messages kept on FastMail servers, including realtime replication to a backup server, and nightly incremental backups of all emails to yet another server kept for 1 week||Once downloaded, copy only exists on your local computer, if it crashes, email is lost|
To understand the power and usefulness of IMAP, we recommend you look at this example usage scenario using Outlook Express.
Free accounts are not provided POP or SMTP.
A common belief is that POP is much quicker and easier than IMAP, leading to us being asked why we don't offer it to free accounts. In reality, it depends on the email client. Outlook Express, for instance, is somewhat inefficient. However Mulberry, Netscape 6+, or Mozilla are quite fast. For instance, to read an email with a large attachment, POP or IMAP with OE must download the whole message, whereas other IMAP clients download just the body without the attachment for you to read, and you can then decide to read the attachment. IMAP downloads exactly the same amount of data as POP, so it is not necessarily slower.
POP works poorly with webmail in general. Once a message is retrieved with POP and filed into a local folder, it is now lost from the server. Which means your mail is no longer ubiquitous. Although this may not seem like a big deal at the time, at that one time this year where you desperately need to access an email you've sent or received and you're away from home you'll be thankful for it!
Since anyone who uses the web interface at all should be using IMAP, people who really genuinely need POP are probably not well served by FastMail. Almost all ISPs include a standard POP account with their package, and there are many other free POP services around which really have nothing to differentiate them. However we have found that POP is extremely costly to provide for free, because the people who use it are mainly treating it as a free file transfer service to distribute images, movies, and software.
To encourage a "best practice" configuration and to discourage abuse of our system, we have decided not to provide POP for free accounts. However, we do believe in providing complete choice to those who will pay for it, which is why we provide POP to Full and Enhanced users.
As for authenticated SMTP, all ISPs provide you with an SMTP server to use. We would prefer that people used their ISP's SMTP server - you've paid for it already, after all! Allowing free users to use our SMTP server simply adds to our costs, without providing any benefit to most people other than a slightly simplified setup.
You can access folders other than just Inbox via POP, by logging in with a special "username+foldername" login name. For example, if you have a folder called "Jokes", you can access this folder via POP by logging in using the special username "yourusername+Jokes@fastmail.fm". Note that folder names are case-sensitive.