If you ever set up a Gmail account over IMAP in a third-part client like Mailbox, you’re painfully aware that the experience is nowhere near Gmail’s web app on desktop.
It’s not Google’s fault – Gmail’s support for IMAP is rather smooth. To put it bluntly, IMAP just wasn’t designed with all of Gmail’s advanced features in mind.
For starters, typical operations over IMAP are noticeably slower compared to Gmail. Worse, IMAP does not support full searching of Gmail accounts and important features specific to Gmail – such as starring or archiving – frequently behave erratically over IMAP.
Realizing it doesn’t want developers to be bogged down by IMAP’s limitations, Google today at its I/O conference released the first beta of the official Gmail API.
It’s a pretty big deal and here’s why…
For starters, the Gmail API allows developers full programatic access to your Gmail threads, labels and messages, and does so with high performance.
Programmers can tap it to deploy advanced Gmail features across their mobile email clients, such as reading messages from Gmail, sending email messages through Gmail, modifying the labels applied to messages and threads and more.
Perhaps most importantly, the API allows third-party apps to search for specific messages and threads using the full power of Google search, with search operators and filters in queries.
Google does not limit API use to email clients.
Matter of fact, any app that integrates with Gmail this way or another is free to implement the API, especially apps that let you manage Gmail labels, apps for backing up that extract and index your email archive and those that provide an option to send messages via Gmail from within the app.
You can learn more about the API from the Google Developers website.