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Originally, the MUA was intended to be a simple program to read the user's mail messages, which the mail delivery agent (MDA) in conjunction with the mail transfer agent (MTA) would transfer into a local mailbox.
The most important mailbox formats are mbox and Maildir. These rather simple protocols for locally storing e-mails make import, export and backup of mailfolders quite easy.
E-mails to be sent would be handed over to the MTA, perhaps via an mail submission agent, therefore an MUA would not have to provide any transport-related functions.
Since the various Microsoft Windows versions intended for home use never provided an MTA, most modern MUAs have to support protocols like POP3 and Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) to communicate with a remote MTA located at the e-mail providers machine.
IMAP and the updated IMAP4 are optimized for storage of e-mail on the server, while the POP3 protocol generally assumes that the e-mail is downloaded to the client. The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is used by most e-mail clients to send e-mail.
In addition to the fat client e-mail clients, or small MUAs in cooperation with a local MDA/MTA, presented here, there are also Web-based e-mail programs called webmail.
An important standard supported by most e-mail clients is MIME, which is used to send binary file e-mail attachments. Attachments are files that are not part of the e-mail proper, but are sent with the e-mail.
Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) is a proprietary Microsoft Windows application programming interface (API) which can be used to access the Microsoft Exchange e-mail server or to interact with the Microsoft Outlook client.
The public has spoken, and here are the top 4 for the 2008 Member Choice awards. (These represent 80% of the responses.)
•In first place, with 27.1% of the votes, is Outlook.
•In second place is an Open Source upstart with 22.4% of the votes is Thunderbird. (When does it quit being an "upstart" and become the "client of choice"?)
•In third place this year (up from fourth place last year) with 18.5% of the votes are the Web-mail Clients (GMail; Hotmail; Juno/NetZero; Yahoo; InBox; AIM/AOL; etc.).
•And in fourth place (down from third place last year) with 12.0% of the votes, is Outlook Express.
Rounding out the top ten with their respective vote percents: in 5th place with 3.6% was Other, in 6th place with 2.1% was Eudora, in 7th place with 1.8% was Pegasus, in 8th place with 1.6% was Mac OS X Mail, in 9th place with 1.5% was Opera M2, and finally in 10th place with 1.3% was The Bat!.
One thing to note is that a number of people are now using "Windows Live Mail". This should be added to the poll the next time it is done as we will probably see more users moving from Outlook Express and other Microsoft clients to it.
Also, several use Lotus Notes because of work environments.
With 439 people casting 597 votes, this poll shows that there are 2 things changing. One is that while Microsoft is trying to entice us with "whistles and bells", a lot of folks aren't buying into it. It is evidenced by the popularity of the Open Sourced client Mozilla Thunderbird. But what is also remarkable is that the Web-Based E-mail clients are rising in popularity as well. Outlook Express is also slowly loosing ground.
To see more of the poll where you will see the complete results as of 10/26/2007, go here.
I'd like to thank to forum hosts for letting me conduct this poll, but most of all, I'd like to thank the members who voted and made their voices heard.