HTTP-based Protocol to Replace IMAP?

During a discussion at XMPP Summit 5, it was briefly suggested that XMPP could serve as a replacement for IMAP, a standard protocol for accessing electronic mailboxes and messages. While there are some optimizations that could be achieved with XMPP, IMAP is a well-entrenched protocol that will be around for decades to come.

I had a brief conversation with Dan Mosedale, of the Mozilla Messaging crew, where I stated my stance that such a replacement is non-pragmatic. He suggested something interesting: most mail access today is not via IMAP, but via the web.

That is a perspective I hadn’t considered, but it is certainly true. Most people receive email through Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, or AOL. Through the use of Ajax techniques, much of this mail is being delivered over HTTP. It is by no means a stretch to imagine IMAP being replaced by an HTTP-based protocol, given an effort to standardize the data format transmitted in the requests and responses.

Comments

kael
says:
August 6, 2008 at 4:57 AM

If most people use webmails, it may be because they have no alternative access or because POP is not optimized. I believe that when users have the choice between IMAP and HTTP they tend to use IMAP.

I don’t know if IMAP will be replaced by a HTTP-based protocol, but a new version of IMAP called IMAP5 has started to be discussed.

XMPP will probably start to be used in a complementary manner with HTTP and XMPP – not sure it will replace them.

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