Email Issues Explained

Some basic functions in email cause people confusion. Read on for common email issues explained. Some of the issues people raise are where email is stored and how spam is identified.

Email is text and images sent from one person to another using the Internet. An email address is more like a phone number than a street address. A person owns their email address, and email to that address will only go to that person. But a single person can access their email in a number of different locations.

Email addresses come from providers such as Google (, Xfinity (, or Yahoo ( Providers supply the part of the email after the @ symbol. Individuals or companies that have their own websites (domain names) can use them to create email addresses ( These companies send and receive emails for the individuals.

Each email address must be unique, and they are case insensitive. is the same as, but it is different than

Syncing Emails

Email as we know it has been around since the early 1970s. At that time, people generally had access to a single computer. The web did not yet exist. To retrieve email, users logged into a program that periodically retrieved any new emails from the provider’s servers, and downloaded them to the user’s computer. Users could delete email from the server after downloading, or have them saved.

This retrieval method is POP. POP worked quite well on a single computer.

People today often have access to multiple devices. Most users want to read their email on every device they have. POP was not designed for this complexity. Emails downloaded using POP on two different devices, are actually two different copies of the same email. Deleting the copy on a phone did not delete the copy on a computer. This was pretty confusing for many people.

IMAP was developed in the late 1980s. IMAP addresses the POP multi-device limitations. This standard stores all emails on the provider’s server, and only displays the emails on the users devices. There is only one copy of the email, and it is accessible through the Internet.

Ever since then, people ask this in their requests for email issues explained. When am I deleting all copies of an email and when am I deleting only a local copy?

Deleting an email on any device using IMAP, deletes the only copy of the email on the provider’s server. That email is removed from the list on every device. This is the behavior that most users expect when they are accessing their email on multiple devices.

How Emails and Contacts connect

Where does the person’s name come from that is displayed in an email? Can you change what other people see as your name? The answer is actually quite complicated. People who want email issues explained often ask about this.

Sender’s name is determined by the sender. It is based on the email program settings.

Recipient’s name is determined by the email program the sender is using. This program may pull names from the user’s contacts, from prior emails, or from a contact list within the email program.

The recipient viewing the email may be seeing a name that has come from their contact list, from prior emails or from a contact list within the email program. The source depends on what email program is being used and where this person’s information is stored.

The details of which program pulls which name in which order is what causes this complexity. There is no list that says, “Gmail uses this first, and this second…” But, there are many places to look if you have an issue with this. Call us and we can help you track it down.

Marking SPAM emails

This article about the history of spam from the Internet Society shows that spam has been around as long as email has. What is spam? How are they identified?

The first thing to know about spam, is that there is a continuum from email that is blatantly trying to trick the reader into something, to ads that the reader doesn’t want to see. Spam for one person is not necessarily spam for their neighbor.

The first blockade for spam is on the servers of the email provider. At this level, the very obvious emails that have been sent to a million people from suspicious computers are weeded out. You will never see these emails

The second level is the suspicious emails that your email provider puts into your spam folder for your review. There are many things that can cause an email to be tagged at this level:

  • Specific words or phrases
  • Number of recipients
  • Sending server
  • Whether the sender is in your contacts
  • How you have treated emails similar to this in the past
  • How other people have treated emails similar to this in the past
  • Whether there is content that looks suspicious, such as links or attached programs
What You Can Do

There are ways to make this process better in the future, not just for you but for everyone. Check your spam folder periodically and mark any emails that you do not consider spam.

More importantly, mark any emails that land in your inbox that you consider spam. If you delete these spam emails without marking them, then the email provider/email program cannot learn from your experience.

Spam filters are getting better every day. Do not click in emails that are tagged as spam. If you think they are not spam, check them out very carefully. Trust that the email in your spam folder is very likely to be correctly identified.


Please call to have other email issues explained!

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