Exporting From WebMail into Gmail/IMAP Using Thunderbird

Most of you have heard the news, as each day goes by, Yahoo will likely succumb to Microsoft’s advances. As such, I’ve decided that now is a good time as any to migrate all of my email from Yahoo and MSN accounts into a Google-Apps-Powered fsckin.com account.

The easiest to use tool I’ve found so far is a plugin for Mozilla’s Thunderbird called WebMail. This extension is so slick, it sets up a local POP3, IMAP, and SMTP server that proxies requests from the mail client to the web interface for a ton of different webmail sites, like Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, and more.

So I had several thousand emails loaded into both an old Yahoo mail account, as well as an MSN.com email address I’ve been wanting to get rid of forever. The problem with both of these services is that you have to pay around $20 apeice to get POP3 or Office Outlook Connector access, respectively.

I’m not willing to pay money for something that their biggest competetor (GMail) provides for free. This is MY email, MY correspondance, and MY time invested. Similar to the problem Robert Scoble had with Facebook and a beta version of Plaxo, I did get temporarily banned from Yahoo for accessing their webmail with a third party program, and got a nasty error 999 message, and absolutely ZERO support from Yahoo until it cleared itself up – took a few hours and the IP-address-ban was gone.

The most upsetting part is that they provide a “free” service to switch to Yahoo! Mail, including importing all your contacts, mail, etc and pulling it all into a walled garden that you’re not allowed to remove anything from after it’s in there. Vendor lock-in is a crutch, and thanks to the WebMail extension for Thunderbird, it’s a weak crutch now.

How well does it work? Let’s just say that as of today I’ve got some emails in my Gmail account that go back to 1998!!! Hot damn!

The method is pretty easy. Install Thunderbird, then pickup the WebMail Extension plus add-ons for each webmail service you’ll use, configure the plugin to use whatever ports you like, then add your webmail accounts into Thunderbird.

The WebMail extension works as a proxy between your email client and the website that has your email on it. When you click “Get Mail” in Thunderbird, the addon actually goes to www.yahoo.com (as an example), logs in as you, and clicks on Inbox, then reports back to Thunderbird what it sees in the language Thunderbird understands, IMAP, POP3, or SMTP.

It’s really non-techie friendly too, there’s no major configuration needed or anything really technical to figure out.

The best part is once you have the email inside Thunderbird, you can drag and drop or cut and paste emails from one account into another at will. I was able to move several thousand emails from my Yahoo! and MSN accounts into my Google Apps account very quickly. Sometimes it chokes on emails without a subject or very large (10MB+) emails, but those are easily forwarded manually.

Big thumbs up to the WebMail folks, this extension is hot and works like a charm! So what’s stopping you from importing email from your old accounts? You could be find some pictures from Argentina that your friend Rick sent you two years ago. :-)

rich-y-agueda-2.jpg summer.jpg

For those of you who aren’t into the whole Valentine’s Day thing, if I don’t see you until tomorrow, Happy Ubuntu Bug Hug Day!

  • http://cad.cx/blog Colin Dean

    I really do need to go to South America one of these days.

  • http://[email protected] Arjun Pakrashi

    Thanks for the information. This will atleast create a hope in me that my data are not locked in. Unfortunately i do not use any of the webmail service provier which, WebMail plugin supports. I use rediffmail and i do not know if it supports it. Can you please help me getting mails from rediffmail? Is there any risk of a permanent ban or something like it.

    What i want to do is to switch my primary email: rediffmail to gmail (which is my secondary), with all my rediff stuffs in place.

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