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POP Email - Because, Privacy


This is a protest post of sort because when I search online for "why should I use POP email" nobody gives the correct answer.

My "pop-culture" settings.  Heh.

The answers usually given are "use it if you want to access email on your device while offline", as if being offline is a serious problem anymore.  Or, "use it to free up storage on your server", which is not a bad answer because eventually you will have to do something with all your cloud-based email, however off in the future.  But for most people that's a specific operation if and when that day of objective arrives and it may not be the only real solution if we are exclusively talking about preservation.  It probably isn't or won't be.

The Actual Answer

The top and actually real answer to use POP email is to keep email moving such that it passes through to you, but is not stored with your email provider on the way.  Bearing in mind of course that your specific configuration can and likely would allow it to pool up online with your provider for awhile, it would nonetheless not stay.  

To put it succinctly you would use POP for off-cloud privacy.  A second best answer is that you might prefer it for control.

POP email is excellent for off-cloud personal computing but it does require more attention and, as with all off-cloud computing, may concentrate your digital habits to periods when you can access certain devices where you are pulling data to.  In a rare tight application of this method, for example, you might only be able to review and respond to email when you get home for the day and can settle in with your computer - though again your specific configuration would never likely be that strict.

The control I mention comes from relying on the traditional email clients to access and pull email because they include many granular features relating to how email is handled, displayed, and archived.   The classic MS Office Outlook is probably the pinnacle example of a feature-rich client, though there are competitors that are fresh and contemporary.   

Here are two (non-sponsored):

Oh the Inconvenience!

I am experimenting with exclusive reliance on POP and in the process, trying to mitigate some of the loss of cloud benefits.  This turns out not to be an alien exercise because before the days of web-first email services like GMAIL, most of the mitigations I have come up with were day-to-day standard practice back then.  I'm really doing nothing more than pretending web-based email never happened.

People will be quick to remind you that unlike IMAP or web mail you can't access your messages from anywhere or anytime.  But that's not really true.  As a critical point consistently omitted in all the "should I use POP or IMAP" online articles, you can in fact configure your POP behavior to leave messages on the server for a reasonable period of time.  This means that all your other devices and email apps, including the basic GMAIL app on your Android phone, have time to access and pull the data.  Day-to-day you do in fact have universal access to recent messages for as long as you want to define "recent". 

In my case I have Outlook on my desktop as my primary device and it will leave messages on the server for my other devices for approximately 3 days.  If there's any situation, such as needing to receive and immediately respond to an email on the fly, I still can just fine.  And by the way, guess often that turns out to be?  So far never.  In case you haven't noticed in the past 15 years, email as a thing for person-to-person communication has all but dried up except in the commercial job sphere.  The entire ability to access email via my phone is really more about just keeping tabs on things than actually firing off responses.

Where POP Email Life Really Hurts

The actual downshot of putting yourself back on POP is the initial technical tending and time for it, as with all off-cloud maneuvers.  But this would only be considered an obstacle for "Facebook" or "mobile-only" digital consumers with no thirst or understanding of the freedom they actually have. 

Also a bummer (but not without solutions; I have implemented them) is that "email" these days tends to be part of a larger personal information management suite or ecosystem that includes your contact database and calendar.  Pushing your email to a POP client moves your email management outside of these other critical workflows you have probably gotten used to.  Some people can live with that, but others will naturally try to port contacts and calendars too so that they all remain in sync and portable which drastically complicates the manuever.

For me the question boiled down to a simple problem.  Assuming I use Outlook for contacts and calendar, how best to simply sync such data to my Android phone?  And it was a problem because in 2021 the personal computing application market doesn't "see" people who want to work off the cloud. 

The actual solution, which is working well, involves available and modern, but niche applications, on the PC and on the phone.  I have to install CompanionLink for Outlook, and on my phone, I have to install something called "DejaOffice".  All these things up and running reliably, so far, keep my contacts and calendar synced to Google Contacts (which becomes just another contact account you can add to your contacts view then focus on), and Google Calendar.  Because everything: email, contacts, and calendar stuff, can all be accessed by the Google GMAIL app on Anroid, it feels like I'm still using their web service.  There's no real loss of familiarity yet none of this data is held in perpetual by Google.

In short, long term privacy and control are the reasons to "pick POP", but as with every effort to keep your computing local and within control, you will spend time you have probably forgot you needed to when you became gradually consumed and assimilated by Google and Microsoft. 

  By Dave for Personal Blog.


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