Hotmail

Windows Live Hotmail logo
Enlarge picture
Hotmail Inbox

Windows Live Hotmail inbox
Developer:Microsoft
Latest release:Wave 2 / August 13, 2007
Preview release:"M10" / March 28, 2007
Available language(s):Multilingual (35)
Genre:E-mail, Webmail
License:Proprietary
Website:[1]
Windows Live Hotmail (formerly MSN Hotmail), commonly known as Hotmail, is a free webmail service by Microsoft, part of the Windows Live range of services.

The current version was announced on November 1, 2005 as an update to Microsoft's existing MSN Hotmail service. After a period of beta testing, it was officially released to new users on May 7, 2007, and roll-out to all existing users was completed in October.

It features 5 GB of storage,[1] patented security measures, Ajax technology, and integration with Windows Live Messenger, Spaces, Calendar and Contacts. It has over 380 million users worldwide[2] and is available in 35 different languages.

Its competitors include AIM Mail, Gmail, and Yahoo! Mail.

Features

Hotmail employs many of the advanced features that are found across all major webmail services, including use of the Ajax and JavaScript programming frameworks, support for the most popular internet browsers (Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox), keyboard controls giving the ability to navigate around the page without using the mouse, advanced message search including structured query syntax such as "from:ebay", message filters, folder-based organization of messages, auto-completion of contact addresses when composing, contact grouping, importing and exporting of contacts as CSV files, rich text formatting, rich text signatures, advanced spam filtering and virus scanning, support for multiple addresses, and different language versions. POP3 access, although not directly available through Hotmail, can be accessed via Windows Live Mail, and Microsoft Outlook with Outlook Connector[3].

Users can choose from two different versions of Hotmail, depending on personal preference. The first is a "Classic" version, with the interface and layout based on those of the previous MSN Hotmail, while still benefitting from the speed of Ajax technology. Also available is a "Full" version, which employs a more advanced user interface styled on that of Microsoft Outlook, with a reading pane and drag-and-drop capability. All other features are available in both versions.

Hotmail also includes new features and technologies that are found in none or very few other webmail services, such as:
  • Audio player
An integrated audio player is offered in Hotmail which automatically plays voicemails or MP3 audio clips after scanning the file for viruses.
  • Color schemes
Hotmail adds the functionality of personalization to the user interface by a choice of color schemes. Users can choose from the default Windows Live "Blue Vapor" theme, or blue, red, black, silver, pink, green, purple or orange variants.
  • Integration
Hotmail is extensively integrated with many other Windows Live services. Users can see if their Windows Live Messenger contacts are online and start instant messaging conversations from Hotmail. Integration with Windows Live Spaces and Windows Live Contacts is also available, with the ability to have contact information kept automatically up-to-date, and notification of updated Spaces. Windows Live Calendar will also be accessible through the Hotmail interface upon completion; MSN Calendar is currently available.
  • Interface flexibility
The redesign of Hotmail was centered around an Outlook-style appearance, with a reading pane to view the inbox and messages at the same time, drag-and-drop functionality, keyboard selects for using the Ctrl or Shift keys to select messages and right-click context menus delivering a greater range of options. The reading pane can be displayed at the side of messages, below them, or not at all.
  • Security
Hotmail has extensive security and safety features—some patented—including Trend Micro virus scanning, SenderID, SMTP Authentication, phishing heuristic detection, Bonded Sender, mailing list detection and forwarding detection.[4] Potentially unsafe mail is caught by Hotmail and it does not open the message or allow access to an attachment until the user requests that it do so. It has proven particularly useful in notifying users of phishing attempts.

A unique feature of Hotmail is the safety bar, positioned constantly above each message as a notification to the user as to whether the sender is known and if the mail content is potentially dangerous.
  • Spell checker
While other webmail applications offer the ability of checking messages for spelling mistakes, only Hotmail uses a Microsoft Office-like technology of checking the words as they are typed. As in programs like Microsoft Word, misspelled words are underlined in red and a right-click displays a list of suggestions.

Additional information

Languages

Hotmail is available in Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (also Brazilian Portuguese), Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovakian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish and Ukrainian. Bi-directional language support is available for Arabic and Hebrew message content.

Registration

Upon registration, new users can choose from a Hotmail domain address (e.g. @hotmail.com, @hotmail.co.uk), or, in the near future, a localized Windows Live domain (e.g. @live.com, @live.co.uk, @live.es, @live.it).

Access from mail clients

MSN accounts once had POP3 email access but they sold their POP3 servers to Qwest in favor of HTML servers.

It is in principle possible to check one's own e-mail using the WebDAV protocol (an extension of HTTP), using mail clients such as Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express on PC, Microsoft Entourage on Mac, or an extension for Mozilla Thunderbird.[5] But while this service was free for a number of years, Microsoft announced on September 27, 2004 that they were making it a subscription-only service for new users immediately and existing users from April 2005. However, some (not all) existing users are still able to access their Hotmail accounts via this protocol for free as of April 2007, depending on how long they have been a member of Hotmail and whether their account had ever been suspended due to spam violations. Also, whether it is a technical glitch or not, clients still using Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 but have not updated to SP2 can still access their Hotmail account via Outlook regardless.

It should be noted that Windows Mail, Outlook Express' successor, no longer supports HTML email access. Users can get around this restriction however, by using software that simulates a POP server to which the e-mail application connects.

It is possible for account holders of Windows Live Hotmail (or normal Hotmail) to check their email through Windows Live Mail (formally Windows Live Mail Desktop).

Mail from other accounts can be accessed through Hotmail using the "POP mail" button located on the Hotmail toolbar.

Comparison of E-mail services

Email service Price Features
Windows Live HotmailFreeIncludes 5 GB of e-mail storage and 10 MB attachments with graphical advertisements.[6]
Windows Live Hotmail Plus$19.95 a yearIncludes 10 GB of e-mail storage, 20 MB attachments, no graphical advertisements, no inactivity limit, no advertisements and full POP3 access.[7]
Microsoft Office Outlook Live$44.95 a yearIncludes 2 GB of e-mail storage, 20 MB attachments, and no graphical advertisements. Also includes Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 for Subscription Services with free upgrades, allowing users to synchronize Hotmail with Outlook.

Development history

Original Hotmail

The original Hotmail service was founded by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith , and was one of the first webmail services on the Internet. It was commercially launched on July 4, 1996, the American Independence Day, symbolizing "freedom" from ISP-based e-mail[8] and the ability to access your inbox from anywhere in the world. The name "Hotmail" was chosen out of many possibilities ending in "-mail" as it included the letters HTML - the coding used behind all web pages (to emphasize this the original spelling was "HoTMaiL").
Enlarge picture
The Hotmail logo before it was rebranded under MSN.

Transition over to MSN

Hotmail was initially backed by the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. By December 1997, it reported more than 8.5 million subscribers[9] and was sold later that month to Microsoft for a reported US$400 million[10], and joined the MSN group of services. Hotmail quickly gained in popularity as it was localized for different markets around the globe and became the world's largest webmail service, reporting more than 30 million active members by February 1999.[11]

Hotmail originally ran on a mixture of FreeBSD and Solaris,[12][13] operating systems. Microsoft initially tried to move the FreeBSD portion of the architecture to a Windows NT 4.0 based system and this failed. Later a project was started to move the system to Windows 2000. In June 2001 Microsoft claimed this had been completed, however, a few days later they retracted this and admitted that in fact some functions of the Hotmail system were still reliant on FreeBSD.[14]

Later development saw the service tied with Microsoft's web authentication scheme, Passport (now Windows Live ID), and integration with Microsoft's instant messaging program, MSN Messenger, and its social networking platform, MSN Spaces (now Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Spaces, respectively). A security issue appeared in Hotmail during this period, permitting anybody to log into any Hotmail account using the password 'eh'; it was at the time called "the most widespread security incident in the history of the Web."[15]

After a period of technological stagnation, the webmail industry received a significant boost in 2004 when the Google search engine announced its own mail service, Gmail. Featuring vastly increased storage space, speed and interface flexibility, this new competitor spurred a wave of innovation in webmail, with the main industry heavyweights—Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail—all introducing upgraded versions of their e-mail services with greater speed, security and advanced features.

Rebranding to Windows Live Hotmail

Microsoft's new e-mail system was announced on November 1st, 2005 under the codename "Kahuna", and a beta version was released to a few thousand testers. Other webmail enthusiasts also wanting to try the beta version could request an invitation granting access. The new service was built from scratch and emphasised three main concepts of being "faster, simpler and safer". New versions of the beta service were rolled out over the development period, and by the end of 2006 the number of beta testers had reached the millions.[16]

The Hotmail brand was planned to be phased-out when Microsoft announced that the new mail system would be called "Windows Live Mail", however the developers soon backtracked after beta-testers were confused with the name change and preferred the already well-known Hotmail name, and decided on Windows Live Hotmail. Development of the beta was finished in April 2007, and Windows Live Hotmail was released to new registrations on May 7, 2007. The roll-out to existing users is gradual, and by November 2007, it will have replaced all existing 260 million MSN Hotmail accounts worldwide.

Development Teams

The Hotmail development and operations teams are based in Mountain View, California. The official Hotmail team development blog can be found at [2]

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Old MSN Logo

MSN Hotmail

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The old MSN Hotmail inbox
Hotmail was part of the MSN brand of services before the new version was released on May 7, 2007 with the Windows Live branding. It offers 2 GB (2x1000 MB) of free e-mail storage[17] with a 10 MB attachment limit. Substantial increases in a mailbox size were introduced shortly after Google's Gmail debuted. Users can upgrade from MSN Hotmail to Windows Live Hotmail which offers 5 GB of free e-mail storage to all members. [18]

The Classic view of Windows Live Hotmail is based on that of MSN Hotmail, being designed with familiarity in mind so users that made the switch were not immediately alienated by the change.

Currently, the old MSN Hotmail interface is only accessible by users who signed up for Hotmail accounts before the Windows Live Hotmail release date and have not chosen to update to the new Live. MSN Hotmail will be phased out in stages and is projected to be completely replaced by Windows Live Hotmail by November 2007.

Miscellaneous

As of June 2006, Hotmail users can now send instant messages from within Hotmail using the integrated Web Messenger function, without having to be signed in to Windows Live Messenger or have the program installed at all.

At the Hotmail main screen, users can access integrated MSN services such as Calendar and Contacts (the latter being shared with Windows Live Messenger).

In December 2004, Microsoft started its new blogging service called MSN Spaces and integrated it with MSN Messenger (now Windows Live Spaces and Windows Live Messenger, respectively) and MSN Hotmail.

If a free MSN Hotmail account is not accessed in a 120-day period, then it is temporarily deactivated (all messages deleted, although not the address book). The underlying Passport account, which is tied to the e-mail address, is not released back in to the address pool for 90 days. This allows the current owner to re-activate the e-mail portion of the account and keep the address before new users can register for it; however this is now defunct. MSN Premium/MSN Hotmail Plus customers (pay service) are exempt from the expiration policy.

In the past, Hotmail has offered users who have held the same account for a number of years the same exemption from deactivation. However, Hotmail changed its policy again, leaving many of those account members surprised to find that, after being told their emails would be saved, they had instead been deleted. Those emails cannot be recovered.

Hotmail is often used by spammers to provide a fake dropbox for use in their messages. However, Hotmail subscribes to MSN's strongly worded Terms of Use, and anyone found to have engaged in spam-related activities will have their account cancelled without warning.

In early 2000, The MSN Internet Portal was receiving 200 million visits a month. This prompted Microsoft's UK managing director to charge a user fee of £10.00 a year for extra services. Users are now able to get MSN Hotmail Plus for $19.95 a year. All Hotmail accounts include an advanced filter system at no extra cost.[19]

Microsoft job posting dated Aug 4, 2007 claims that Hotmail is "handling roughly 2 billion emails daily" [3].

Microsoft job posting dated Oct 17, 2007 claims that Hotmail uses in production, "Solaris/Linux servers" [4]

Delivery problems

As of April 2007 Hotmail stopped delivering e-mail from a number of mail servers. Mail is normally accepted by the Hotmail mail server (so no bounces or rejects), however it is not delivered to the inbox, nor to the junk mail box. This all regardless of the mail settings and white list settings in the Hotmail account [20].

Hotmail is known to intentionally reject anyone attempting to authenticate from proxies, including but not limited to the relakks.com VPN proxy and neomailbox.net web gateway proxy

Awards

Windows Live Hotmail was awarded the PC Mag Editor's Choice Award in February 2007[21] and again in March 2007 with a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.[22]

Criticisms

Hotmail is often criticised for only giving paying subscribers of the Hotmail Plus service access to POP3 functionality, allowing e-mails to be downloaded locally via a desktop application such as Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird. Hotmail was originally available with POP3 to all, but in 2004 the service was revoked for free users. However, today, it is possible to access a Hotmail account outside of an internet browser, though only on the Microsoft Windows platform, by using Windows Live Mail for free. One can also access e-mail messages and contacts in any Hotmail account using Microsoft Office Outlook Connector for free, though access of calendar, tasks and notes requires a premium subscription. Mozilla Thunderbird can be used to access Hotmail accounts (as well as other web-based e-mail) in combination with the WebMail extension.

Like all the major webmail services, Hotmail is often used by spammers for illicit purposes such as junk or chain mailing and unwanted marketing, due to its wide availability, its popularity, and its ease of registration of new accounts. Microsoft removes accounts used by spammers as per its Terms of Use and provides users with the ability to report and block addresses associated with junk mail.

Another common gripe Hotmail users have is towards the advertisement automatically added to the signature of every e-mail sent from a Hotmail account. The subscription-based Hotmail Plus offering removes this advertisement, as does using the free Windows Live Mail application to send messages.

Windows Live Hotmail does not support Safari; there are basic functionality issues for Safari users, such as the "Reply" button not adding the address of the sender to the reply email (by 15 October 2007 this appears to have been fixed, though for many Safari users, Hotmail now moves at incredibly slow speed, making it almost unusable). It is also not possible to automatically create a hyperlink by only typing in the URL when using Safari or Firefox on a Mac.

There is no setting in Windows Live Hotmail to set Plain Text as a default, though it is possible to format individual messages to be sent as Plain Text. The default in MSN Hotmail was Plain text with an option to change to HTML, but in Windows Live Hotmail the only option is HTML.

Windows Live Hotmail also has a fixed-filter setting for their redesigned inbox. Messages are first displayed with the most recent at the top. Although it is possible to re-sort upon opening, the sort settings are not saved and with each subsequent sign-in the sort must be redone again.

See also

References

1. ^ Hotmail will soon bring you more of your requests, better performance (htm). Hotmail Staff. Retrieved on 2007-08-14.
2. ^ We Heard You Loud and Clear (htm). Hotmail Staff. Retrieved on 2007-03-23.
3. ^ MSN Hotmail is now Windows Live Hotmail (htm). Microsoft. Retrieved on 2007-05-03.
4. ^ Why Kahuna is different (part 2) (htm). Imran Qureshi, Hotmail Developer. Retrieved on 2007-03-30.

5. ^ Webmail supported by Mozilla Thunderbird
6. ^ Hotmail: Your Options. Microsoft. Retrieved on 2007-06-27.
7. ^ Windows Live Mail Plus (htm). Microsoft. Retrieved on 2007-06-10.
8. ^ Timeline of computing 1990-forward (htm). AllExperts. Retrieved on 2007-04-10.
9. ^ Hotmail, Microsoft talk deals (htm). CNET. Retrieved on 2007-03-23.
10. ^ Microsoft Buys Hotmail (htm). CNET. Retrieved on 2007-06-22.
11. ^ MSN Hotmail: From Zero to 30 Million Members in 30 Months (htm). Microsoft. Retrieved on 2007-03-23.
12. ^ [5]
13. ^ [6]
14. ^ [7]
15. ^ Hotmail Hackers: 'We Did It' (htm). Wired. Retrieved on 2007-08-31.
16. ^ M7 new code shipping soon - not yet here! (htm). Hotmail Staff. Retrieved on 2007-03-21.
17. ^ Storage capacity of Hotmail accounts
18. ^ Hotmail account storage for Windows Live Mail
19. ^ MSN 'to charge user fee'
20. ^ Delivery problems described on iis_aid_news
21. ^ Buying Guide: Web E-Mail Clients (htm). PC Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-03-21.
22. ^ Windows Live Hotmail (beta) Review by PC Magazine (htm). PC Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-04-10.

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