In computing, the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) is an Internet standard protocol used by e-mail clients to retrieve e-mail messages from a mail server over a TCP/IP connection. IMAP is defined by RFC 3501.
IMAP was designed with the goal of permitting complete management of an email box by multiple email clients, therefore clients generally leave messages on the server until the user explicitly deletes them. An IMAP server typically listens on port number 143. IMAP over SSL (IMAPS) is assigned the port number 993.
Virtually all modern e-mail clients and servers support IMAP. IMAP and the earlier POP3 (Post Office Protocol) are the two most prevalent standard protocols for email retrieval, with many webmail service providers such as Gmail, and Yahoo! Mail also providing support for either IMAP or POP3.