Google has announced the beta of a Gmail API which makes them the first email provider to offer an API for users’ inboxes. As an email API pioneer, we are very excited about this new functionality from Google. It acknowledges something that we all know—email is a valuable development platform which developers like you work with every day.

What is it?

The Gmail API provides basic functionality to access and send email in a Gmail account through a RESTful API that is much easier to integrate than IMAP. The API gives access to Threads, Messages, Labels, Drafts, and History. Google clearly states the new API should not be used to replace IMAP for full-fledged email client access. They describe it as “an alternative” to IMAP. It is not meant as an IMAP replacement.

The use cases for the new API are straightforward based on the endpoints it now offers. You can read, create, update, delete, and send email with the API. It also allows you to modify labels and conduct message and thread searches.

How does the Gmail API differ from Context.IO?

Google’s email API is limited to Gmail, but Context.IO supports Gmail as well as Yahoo! Mail, Office365,, and AOL. Gmail has 425 million accounts but can reach over 1.2 billion email accounts! Gmail may be the most popular provider, but you can almost triple your potential customer base by using Context.IO and having access to all of the other major email providers.

We support any email provider that uses IMAP which includes many ISPs and cable companies (e.g. Comcast, Cox Communications, and Time Warner Cable). Support for a broad range of providers is especially important in countries where there is a strong reliance on regional email providers.

Support for a diversity of email accounts is not the only difference between these APIs. The Context.IO platform has many features not available in the Gmail API. The most popular of these is WebHooks. WebHooks allows you to define rules-based notifications. These alerts are sent to your application as soon as an email arrives matching your filter criteria. You can filter WebHook notifications by sender, recipients, attachments, subject, folders, and thread. This works across all email providers using IMAP, not just Gmail.

Another valuable tool for developers is our Contacts resource, built directly from email headers. This makes our Contacts data more complete than Gmail’s as it is based on a user’s actual email activity and not just what the user adds to an “address book”. In addition, our Contacts compile comprehensively across all email accounts a user might have. The feature allows you to create contact-based applications incorporating metrics such as message counts and the dates of the latest messages sent to or received from a contact. The Gmail API does not have Contacts endpoints that can be used in your application.

We will continue to layer new features onto both the 2.0 and Lite APIs. We recently added the ability to fetch attachments in Lite and will be rolling out new endpoints in the near future. We are also exploring ways to leverage the Gmail API to improve our connectivity with Gmail. If the Gmail API offers a better way to access their accounts, we will certainly take advantage of it!

Validation! Email as a Development Platform

The Gmail API recognizes there is significant power within our inboxes. We on the Context.IO team believe there are many opportunities to utilize email information better. We spearheaded the idea of the RESTful email API, and we are glad Google has followed suit. We hope it will prod other email services to do the same. Email may be 30 years old, but we are just beginning to see the creative possibilities.


A conversation with

by Dan Corbin May 22, 2014

Tell us about What does it do? Seven years ago, Chris Keller founded when he realized that his own inbox was on overload and he was having trouble tracking prospects and clients for his own business development needs. He created a simple way to schedule tasks and reminders on any email client using […]

Read the full article →

Context.IO Lite Is Now Live!

by Dan Corbin May 5, 2014

We’ve ripped the beta label off and are happy to announce the full release of the Context.IO Lite API! You now have another fast and easy way to add e-mail data directly into your application. Our new REST API offers reliability, stability, and speed. We gathered great feedback during the beta period and are lining […]

Read the full article →

Reset your password on Context.IO

by Dan Corbin April 28, 2014

You may have heard of a serious security issue affecting many websites and services known as Heartbleed that could potentially allow attackers to access passwords, usernames, and other account information. Our engineers took immediate action to secure Context.IO’s infrastructure. We’ve replaced affected SSL certificates, and all external services have been patched. As a general precaution, […]

Read the full article →

Announcing Context.IO Lite API (beta)

by Marii Thompson March 10, 2014

Today we are proud to announce the general availability of the Context.IO Lite API! This started as a small project to improve the performance of webhooks, but quickly grew as we recognized the performance and potential uses for Lite. Our goal for this release is to gather performance data and feedback from early adopters. This […]

Read the full article →

Rate Limit Exceeded

by Ben Hamill February 6, 2014

We recently shipped a change to improve the way we communicate about rate limits when a developer hits one. Previously, we responded with a 503 (“Service Unavailable”), intending to indicate that, because the limit had been hit, the server was unavailable. We’ve come to think that this wasn’t terribly clear of us. Starting today, we’re […]

Read the full article →

2013-12-06 Service Outage

by Marii Thompson December 11, 2013

Hi, my name is Marii. I lead the Engineering team here at Context.IO and I hate for my first post to be about an outage, but I am glad to work with such a talented team of engineers who quickly responded to the issue. On Friday, Context.IO suffered a major service interruption. I am deeply […]

Read the full article →

Thinking About HAL Clients

by Ben Hamill November 6, 2013

More and more, at work, we’re talking about service oriented architectures. Mostly, these are very small apps that deal with just a few concerns. Since we foresee having lots and lots of these little mini-services, we decided we’d need to make some decisions up front about how they’re inter-operate. This is sort of in the […]

Read the full article →

Context.IO @ Compute Midwest

by Tony Blank October 29, 2013

Compute Midwest is a 2-day event in Kansas City. It consists of a 1-day conference in the beautiful Kauffman Center for Performing Arts. The conference featured innovative talks from industry leaders such as Chris Kemp (Founder, Nebula – Co-Founder, OpenStack – Former CTO, NASA), Alexis Ohanian (co-founder, Reddit – Author, Without Their Permission), Ariel Garten […]

Read the full article →

We have an iOS client library!

by Tony Blank October 17, 2013

Context.IO now has an easy to use client library for iOS. A library is used to easily get started with the API, and write application code. Developers will use this library to write iOS applications. If doing mobile development, be sure to sign up for an API key with 3-legged OAuth enabled to protect your credentials. Getting Started […]

Read the full article →