What Is the Difference Between Web-Based Email & Client Email Services?


Email is a popular way of sharing messages and information between people worldwide. You have several ways of accessing email. Numerous web-based email services exist that allow you to check your email through a Web browser. Additionally, there are standalone email clients that allow you to access your email through another program. These approaches can be fairly different in several ways.

Web-Based Email

  • Web-based email is viewable only through a Web browser. It does not require any sort of stand-alone software, and you can view it on any computer with a working Web browser. A user navigates to the email provider's website, logs in and then views her email messages. One disadvantage to Web-based email is the inability to view it while offline unless messages have been saved in documents.

Email Clients

  • An email client is a stand-alone program that allows for the viewing of email messages. Most Web-based email services offer the option of configuring your account for use through a client. If you are using an email service that operates only through client software, you will not be able to check your email on any computer you encounter. Furthermore, email clients function by way of a protocol, which determines exactly how messages are stored and viewed. There are two main email protocols, with slightly different functions.


  • Post Office Protocol is a client-based email protocol that downloads messages onto the user's computer and then often deletes them. If you use POP, your messages will eventually be stored on a personal computer. Web-based email stores email messages on a remote server. While there are options to preserve the original message when using POP, POP commonly deletes the server's copy of a message. This decreases the storage requirements of the server, but it causes the email to be viewable on only one computer after downloading.


  • Internet Message Access Protocol is another client-based email protocol. Unlike POP, IMAP doesn't delete a message from the server. While many clients allow you to save the messages you view, IMAP does not download them by default. The messages remain on the server, and you are able to view them through the client.

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