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Network Working Group B. Leiba Request for Comments: 2177 IBM T.J. Watson Research Center Category: Standards Track June 1997

                         IMAP4 IDLE command

Status of this Memo

 This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
 Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
 improvements.  Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
 Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
 and status of this protocol.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

1. Abstract

 The Internet Message Access Protocol [IMAP4] requires a client to
 poll the server for changes to the selected mailbox (new mail,
 deletions).  It's often more desirable to have the server transmit
 updates to the client in real time.  This allows a user to see new
 mail immediately.  It also helps some real-time applications based on
 IMAP, which might otherwise need to poll extremely often (such as
 every few seconds).  (While the spec actually does allow a server to
 push EXISTS responses aysynchronously, a client can't expect this
 behaviour and must poll.)
 This document specifies the syntax of an IDLE command, which will
 allow a client to tell the server that it's ready to accept such
 real-time updates.

2. Conventions Used in this Document

 In examples, "C:" and "S:" indicate lines sent by the client and
 server respectively.
 The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", and "MAY"
 in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2060

3. Specification

 IDLE Command
 Arguments:  none
 Responses:  continuation data will be requested; the client sends
             the continuation data "DONE" to end the command

Leiba Standards Track [Page 1] RFC 2177 IMAP4 IDLE command June 1997

 Result:     OK - IDLE completed after client sent "DONE"
             NO - failure: the server will not allow the IDLE
                  command at this time
            BAD - command unknown or arguments invalid
 The IDLE command may be used with any IMAP4 server implementation
 that returns "IDLE" as one of the supported capabilities to the
 CAPABILITY command.  If the server does not advertise the IDLE
 capability, the client MUST NOT use the IDLE command and must poll
 for mailbox updates.  In particular, the client MUST continue to be
 able to accept unsolicited untagged responses to ANY command, as
 specified in the base IMAP specification.
 The IDLE command is sent from the client to the server when the
 client is ready to accept unsolicited mailbox update messages.  The
 server requests a response to the IDLE command using the continuation
 ("+") response.  The IDLE command remains active until the client
 responds to the continuation, and as long as an IDLE command is
 active, the server is now free to send untagged EXISTS, EXPUNGE, and
 other messages at any time.
 The IDLE command is terminated by the receipt of a "DONE"
 continuation from the client; such response satisfies the server's
 continuation request.  At that point, the server MAY send any
 remaining queued untagged responses and then MUST immediately send
 the tagged response to the IDLE command and prepare to process other
 commands. As in the base specification, the processing of any new
 command may cause the sending of unsolicited untagged responses,
 subject to the ambiguity limitations.  The client MUST NOT send a
 command while the server is waiting for the DONE, since the server
 will not be able to distinguish a command from a continuation.
 The server MAY consider a client inactive if it has an IDLE command
 running, and if such a server has an inactivity timeout it MAY log
 the client off implicitly at the end of its timeout period.  Because
 of that, clients using IDLE are advised to terminate the IDLE and
 re-issue it at least every 29 minutes to avoid being logged off.
 This still allows a client to receive immediate mailbox updates even
 though it need only "poll" at half hour intervals.

Leiba Standards Track [Page 2] RFC 2177 IMAP4 IDLE command June 1997

 Example:    C: A001 SELECT INBOX
             S: * FLAGS (Deleted Seen)
             S: * 3 EXISTS
             S: * 0 RECENT
             S: * OK [UIDVALIDITY 1]
             S: A001 OK SELECT completed
             C: A002 IDLE
             S: + idling
             ...time passes; new mail arrives...
             S: * 4 EXISTS
             C: DONE
             S: A002 OK IDLE terminated
             ...another client expunges message 2 now...
             C: A003 FETCH 4 ALL
             S: * 4 FETCH (...)
             S: A003 OK FETCH completed
             C: A004 IDLE
             S: * 2 EXPUNGE
             S: * 3 EXISTS
             S: + idling
             ...time passes; another client expunges message 3...
             S: * 3 EXPUNGE
             S: * 2 EXISTS
             ...time passes; new mail arrives...
             S: * 3 EXISTS
             C: DONE
             S: A004 OK IDLE terminated
             C: A005 FETCH 3 ALL
             S: * 3 FETCH (...)
             S: A005 OK FETCH completed
             C: A006 IDLE

4. Formal Syntax

 The following syntax specification uses the augmented Backus-Naur
 Form (BNF) notation as specified in [RFC-822] as modified by [IMAP4].
 Non-terminals referenced but not defined below are as defined by
 command_auth    ::= append / create / delete / examine / list / lsub /
                     rename / select / status / subscribe / unsubscribe
                     / idle
                     ;; Valid only in Authenticated or Selected state
 idle            ::= "IDLE" CRLF "DONE"

Leiba Standards Track [Page 3] RFC 2177 IMAP4 IDLE command June 1997

5. References

 [IMAP4] Crispin, M., "Internet Message Access Protocol - Version
 4rev1", RFC 2060, December 1996.

6. Security Considerations

 There are no known security issues with this extension.

7. Author's Address

 Barry Leiba
 IBM T.J. Watson Research Center
 30 Saw Mill River Road
 Hawthorne, NY  10532

Leiba Standards Track [Page 4]

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