Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I'm randomly losing email for some reason. If you've sent something and haven't heard back, please send it again. Sorry.


This is a request for help. I'm currently using a Gmail hosted account and using Mail on OS X to retrieve my mail via POP. The setting on the Gmail side is to archive mail that has been retrieved by POP. Sometimes I browse email via the browser.

The weird thing that is happening is that blocks of mail or single messages are not showing up in the client, but are being archived in the "All Mail" section of my Gmail account.

I tried rebuilding the Inbox on my Mac, moved the messages to another folder and rebuilt with 0 messages. (Confirmed a clean .plist file.) Then I tried deleting the Inbox folder completely and allowed Mail on the Mac to rebuild it from scratch. I think I'm still getting this error.

Any ideas on what this could be and how I can resolve this?


Just a couple of off-handed guesses for a mage in trouble:

1) did you start using any other product or service that might also access your gmail account? - I've read somewhere that Gmail POP gets confused with multiple clients.

2) have you been accessing your gmail account via unreliable connection? - I don't know how well Gmail POP handles unread message flagging when its SSL POP client connection breaks or eats errors silently but, if handled badly, it should exhibit symptoms similar to yours.

I read my gmail using a POP client on my phone, so I don't have to use the browser to check it. Every once in a while, gmail randomly stops giving mail via POP. So I just disable the old pop forward, re-enable it (forwarding from that current date onward), and it fixes it for me. Strange, I know.

Hope that helps.

Get a unix prompt and go to the mail folder (/users/joi/lib/mail or something). Use vi to look at the relevant mail files and see if the messages are in there. Depending on various things, they may be in mbox format (all the mails in one big file) or each message may be in an individual file. If you know how to use grep, so much the better.

This will tell you whether your problem is that the email isn't downloading (which suggests weird interaction between your machine and google mail) or isn't being indexed, which means that you have problems within Apple Mail.

It could be that the connection is going down at some stage, so that the mail is marked as 'read' on the server before it has been properly downloaded. Now, if POP is implemented properly, this should not happen, but it depends on the google implementation.

Frazier's suggestion is certainly a possibility. Could there be a computer out there somewhere that is trying to download your email? Solution to this is to change the password.


Same thing happened to our COO - using Gmail on In that case, it freezes the app so Mail stops responding. Mail works fine with GMail offline.

Thanks for the feedback. It do have my Sidekick III configured to get mail from Gmail but 1) I haven't had problems in the past and 2) since my battery died and I don't have a charger, I haven't been using it... but it could be that T-Mobile does some fancy caching or something so I just changed my password. I'll let you know how it goes.

Gmail will tell you they're still in beta. Hmmm. Two weeks ago I had a few Gmails go astray. But yesterday. I had the weird experience of getting messages a second time about 1 hour later. This continued for about 2/3 of my messages throughout the day. I'm in Chicago and on a PC. So I can see no relationship to our problems except that Gmail is in Beta. :)