Why is WebMail better?

Axel Grude axel.grude at gmail.com
Wed Dec 16 10:21:17 UTC 2015

Also a comment on fastness & stability: I have about 57 Gbyte footprint (when I backup 
all my mail accounts which happen weekly) and although startup can take a little while 
(20 / 30 secs until fully responsive) once it runs, it just runs. I mainly use POP3 
because of a not blazingly fast internet connection (4G)

Conversely my exchange server based outlook constantly crashes and is just slow as 
hell when a folder has more than 5000 emails in it. Also it crashes quite a lot, even 
after repairing and redownloading the outlook.pst file and even though there are 
company enforced quotas. Outlook has other advantages (such as better Calendar 
integration) but Thunderbird is head and shoulders above it as regards stability and 

There is something to be said for a local message store, if we have beefy enough 
hardware to deal with it.


*Axel Grude <mailto:axel.grude at gmail.com>*
Software Developer
Thunderbird Add-ons Developer (QuickFolders, quickFilters, QuickPasswords, Zombie 
Keys, SmartTemplate4)
AMO Editor Get Thunderbird!

> *Subject:* Re: Why is WebMail better?
> *To:* Tb-planning
> *From: *Ben Bucksch
> *Sent: *Wednesday, 16/12/2015 06:55:21 06:55 GMT ST +0000 [Week 50]
> Phillip Hallam-Baker wrote on 11.12.2015 19:21:
>> The IMAP protocol is slow because it is poorly designed. It is single threaded with 
>> every transaction requiring a separate request/response. So one big file causes 
>> everything to jam up. Sorting of messages takes place in the client and the changes 
>> are uploaded back to the server.
>> Gmail also optimizes the user experience by separating out metadata downloads from 
>> content and message data from attachments. Their protocol is S/MIME aware while 
>> IMAP is not.
>> These are all fixable.
> I'd like to correct some mis-information above.
>  1. Thunderbird's IMAP implementation is multi-threaded. (In fact, it's pretty much
>     the only multi-threaded thing in all of TB, if I remember correctly.)
>  2. The protocol itself is asynchronous. You can issue several commands at (almost)
>     the same time, and the second can finish before the first. This is basically the
>     same concept that node.js follows, which is very fast and modern. IMAP had this
>     20 years ago, on a protocol level.
>     (Thunderbird additionally uses one thread and connection per folder. I don't
>     remember whether TB uses the async nature of IMAP very much.)
>  3. IMAP does separate metadata from content. For that purposes, it parses email
>     messages on the server, and can return the headers of an email separately from
>     the body, and the body separate from the attachments. That, too, was very modern
>     for its time.
>  4. IMAP and Thunderbird are blazingly fast on my machine here. The folder with my
>     primary work project has currently about 15000 emails, and is sufficiently fast.
>     QuickSearch in TB is almost instant, it takes about 1s to search the whole
>     folder for a subject.
>     (Admittedly, my IMAP server is on my local network. Maybe the slowness you
>     encounter might be attributed to a slow IMAP server or a slow desktop machine?)
> TB has serious problems, no doubt. But they are not those you mentioned.
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