AOL's Open Mail Access Isn't

{"Last week I mentioned AOL's Open Mail Access -- a system that finally allows you to send and receive AOL email without using the AOL application. Today I have more information on the limitations of this less-than-open system courtesy of former "," editor, Jim Akin. Mr. Akin explains:

Bad news first: AOL has refined its definition of "Open Mail Access" in way only a semanticist could love. You can access and open AOL messages with any IMAP client, but outbound mail support is officially available only to Eudora and the mail apps from Microsoft.

More specifically for the 911 audience, AOL tech support told me earlier today that the company has adopted a non-support policy toward Mail. Port 587 of smtp.aol.com (the AOL outbound-mail server) doesn't, and won't, accept password authentication from Mail.

Now for the good news, two remedies for folks who want to use Mail with their AOL accounts. Neither is perfect, but both are far better than using the AOL client.

1.) Since Mail has no trouble retrieving messages from imap.aol.com, AOL members like your mom, who also have non-AOL mail accounts, can tell Mail to use their other service's SMTP server for AOL mail. (This is hardly a secret, but it's an option AOL users unfamiliar with Mail may not know about.) The catch is that messages routed this way bypass the "Sent Mail" folder on the AOL server. The messages show up in Mail's local "Sent" folder, but fans of "AOL Anywhere," which lets members check mail from any Web browser, may be confused/frustrated that AOL mail sent from home isn't accessible from the Web.

2.) Mail can route outbound mail through smtp.aol.com on port 25 if authentication is turned off. I discovered this trick somewhat accidentally; AOL tech support either withheld it or didn't know about it. Experience suggests the latter, but this could mean port 25 won't be open forever.

The main drawback to this approach is that it's SLOW. Messages I sent myself from one AOL account to another and from AOL to an outside POP account took about 75 minutes to arrive;comparable messages sent via the AOL client arrived in well under a minute.)

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