Email Oddities – Gmail at Fault?

What’s going on here then?

I have lots of email addresses and they all end up in one way or another going to a Gmail account. Some of the email addresses on certain domains have actual email accounts associated with them. I don’t actually login via POP to these addresses, instead I have Gmail set up to access them. Periodically Gmail checks these other email addresses for me, retrieves any emails on them, stores them on the Gmail server and removes them from the POP server.

This works fine, it does mean there can be a delay in me receiving emails as Gmail might only check the POP accounts once every hour, but it does mean that I only have to check my Gmail account and I get all of the emails, including those sent to these other POP addresses. In addition I check my Gmail via IMAP so that I can send and receive it on any device (computer using Apple Mail, iPad or online via Gmail itself) and everything stays in synch.

I have a few other email addresses that aren’t checked by Gmail, but instead simply forward automatically to Gmail. In effect these aren’t actual email accounts set up on the server, instead they are just email address aliases that forward to my Gmail account.

I’ve been having issues with these forwarders not getting through recently so have been running some tests.

Forwarding Issues

It appears that the forwarders do actually work and emails do get through to my Gmail account without any issues, unless that is the email is sent from my Gmail account in the first place. Emails sent from other addresses are fine, those sent from my Gmail account aren’t.

So, if I send an email from my Gmail account to one of my email fowarders, the fowarder should then send it back to Gmail whereupon it shold appear in my inbox. However, it doesn’t. Instead it ends up only in my ‘All Mail’ mailbox and not in my Inbox. Because of this I wasn’t seeing such emails and thought they weren’t getting through. Now that I’ve found out where they end up I’ve been doing more investigation. It didn’t used to behave in this way, forwarded emails (even those from myself) all used to appear in my inbox. As far as I can tell, this behaviour started after my upgrade to Mountain Lion. That is weird though as the behaviour seems to be coming from Gmail which wouldn’t be affected in anyway by my OS update.

Also odd is that rules applied to these emails within Apple Mail don’t seem to have any effect. I thought I’d get around the problem of missing the emails because they didn’t end up in my inbox by applying a rule that would move any emails from certain addresses into the inbox. That simply didn’t work – these forwarded emails seem immune to rules within Mail.

Immediate Emails in Gmail / Apple Mail

In the end, I decided to do away with the forwarders and set up proper email accounts on the servers that are then accessed via POP by Gmail – just like my other accounts. I set it up and ran some tests and then noticed that Apple Mail receives these email immediately. How is is doing that?

In theory, the emails sent to ’[email protected]’ should go to the POP server and sit there for a while until Gmail checks it – it only does this periodically so there should be a delay in me actually getting the email. This is exactly what happens if I send an email from any address other than my Gmail account.

However, if I send an email to any of these addresses from my Gmail account then they appear in my inbox immediately. It would appear as though Gmail is doing something funky! Rather than sending the email to the POP server and then retrieving it later, it seems to be bypassing the POP server altogether and simply moving the email straight to my inbox. That’s all well and good and does kind of make sense as that is where I want the email in the end – unless of course I have some reason for wanting the email to go to the POP server as well. Thankfully I don’t so it isn’t a problem, but it does seem strange and maybe it has something to do with the problem above with the forwarded emails? Maybe Gmail is doing something funky with email I send from my Gmail account to other email addresses I own? And maybe, because some of these aren’t real email addresses, only forwarders Gmail then doesn’t put the email in my inbox, instead it only appears in my All Mail mailbox.

I don’t know what’s going on, but Gmail certainly seems to be doing something odd with emails that I send to myself!


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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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