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Original author(s)Eric S. Raymond
Stable release
6.4.38[1] Edit this on Wikidata / 31 January 2024; 5 months ago (31 January 2024)
Operating systemUnix-like
TypeMail delivery agent
LicenseGNU General Public License

Fetchmail is an open-source software utility for POSIX-compliant operating systems which is used to retrieve e-mail from a remote POP3, IMAP, or ODMR mail server to the user's local system. It was developed from the popclient program, written by Carl Harris.[2]

Its chief significance is perhaps that its author, Eric S. Raymond, used it as a model to discuss his theories of open-source software development in a widely read and influential essay on software development methodologies The Cathedral and the Bazaar.



By design, Fetchmail's only means of delivering messages is by submitting them to the local MTA/Message transfer agent or invoking a mail delivery agent[3] like procmail, maildrop, or sendmail; delivering directly to mail folders such as maildir is not supported.

It is a C program evolved by gradual mutation from an ancestor already written in C.[4]

Dan Bernstein, getmail creator Charles Cazabon and FreeBSD developer Terry Lambert, have criticized Fetchmail's design,[5] its number of security holes,[6] and that it was prematurely put into "maintenance mode". In 2004, a new team of maintainers took over Fetchmail development,[7] and laid out development plans that broke with design decisions that Eric Raymond had made in earlier versions.[8]

See also



  1. ^ Matthias Andree (31 January 2024). "ANNOUNCE: fetchmail 6.4.38 is available (translation updates, updated OpenSSL/wolfSSL version requirements)". Retrieved 31 January 2024.
  2. ^ Raymond, Eric. "Eric S. Raymond's former Design Notes On Fetchmail". Retrieved 2007-04-03.
  3. ^ "...or into an MDA program...", Section G1, The Fetchmail FAQ.
  4. ^ Richardson, Anthony (2004). "An Online Unix System Programming Course For Computer Engineering Students". 2004 Annual Conference Proceedings. ASEE Conferences: 9.197.1–9.197.10. doi:10.18260/1-2--13866.
  5. ^ Lambert, Terry. "UUCP must stay; fetchmail sucks (was list 'o things)". Retrieved 2007-04-05.
  6. ^ Cazabon, Charles. "getmail frequently asked questions". Retrieved 2007-04-05.
  7. ^ "Developer History". Retrieved 2007-04-05.
  8. ^ "Design Notes On Fetchmail". Retrieved 2007-04-05.