The most popular Web-based e-mail service with 300 million-plus users (as of 2010, Yahoo! Mail and Google trail behind). Originally developed by Hotmail Corporation in 1996 and acquired by Microsoft in 1998, Hotmail is available free or paid based on message storage and attachment capacity, security and other features. Falling under the Windows Live umbrella, Hotmail is officially Windows Live Hotmail, and users have access to other Windows Live services. Hotmail was also known as MSN Hotmail and Windows Live Mail. See Windows Live Mail and Windows Live.
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Screenshot of the inbox view of Hotmail
|Type of site||Webmail|
|Available language(s)||36 languages[which?]|
|Users||360 million (July 2011)|
|Created by||Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith|
|Launched||July 4, 1996|
|Current status||Online, deprecated, scheduled for discontinuation|
Hotmail (officially Microsoft Hotmail, previously Windows Live Hotmail and MSN Hotmail) was a free web-based email service operated by Microsoft as part of Windows Live, which was recently replaced by the newer Outlook.com service by Microsoft. Hotmail was one of the first web-based email services, it was founded by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith and launched in July 1996 as "HoTMaiL". It was acquired by Microsoft in 1997 for an estimated $400 million, and shortly after, it was rebranded as "MSN Hotmail". The current version was released in 2011.
Hotmail features unlimited storage, Ajax, and integration with Microsoft's instant messaging (Windows Live Messenger), calendar (Hotmail Calendar), file hosting service (SkyDrive), and contacts platform. As of 2012, Hotmail was the world's second largest web-based email service after Gmail with 360 million users. It is available in 36 different languages.
Similar to other major webmail services, Hotmail uses Ajax programming techniques and supports later versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Google Chrome. Some of its features include keyboard controls giving the ability to navigate around the page without using the mouse, the ability to search the user's messages 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, spam filtering and virus scanning, support for multiple addresses, and different language versions.
In comparison to other webmail services, Hotmail offers the following unique features:
Hotmail's Active view allows users to interact directly with contents and functionalities within their email message. For example, any photo attachments can be previewed directly using Active view. In addition, Hotmail provides a partner platform which allows contents and functionalities from various websites and services such as YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn, and United States Postal Service to be viewed directly within the email message. For example, users may view the YouTube video within Hotmail when a user receives an email which contains a link to the video. Other functionalities of Active view include tracking of real time shipping status from United States Postal Service and performing social networking actions on LinkedIn directly from within the email message.
Hotmail integrates with Office Web Apps to allow high fidelity viewing and editing of Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents that are attached to the email messages. Users can directly open attached Office documents within the web browser, and save them into their Windows Live SkyDrive. Users can also perform edits to any received Office documents, and directly reply to the sender with the edited version of the document. In addition, users may also send up to 25 GB of Office documents (up to 50 MB each) using Hotmail by uploading these documents onto Windows Live SkyDrive, and share these documents with other users for viewing or collaboration.
Hotmail provides the ability to automatically group sent and received emails that are from the same conversation into the same conversation thread, allowing users to quickly browse through all the emails within the same conversation thread. This feature can be turned on or off depending on the user's preferences.
Hotmail offers a "virtual broom" which allows users to delete or move large number of emails into specified folders based on the sender's information. Once a "sweep" is performed, the user may choose to configure Hotmail to remember the sweep settings and perform the same move or delete actions for any future emails. Users may also set up custom message rules based on the sender's or recipient's information, the subject of the email, or attachments to the email. There is also an option to delete/move messages that are older than a specified amount of days, or only keep the latest message from a sender.
Quick views allow users to filter all emails (in all folders) by document attachments, photo attachments, flagged messages, or shipping updates. One-click filters allow users to filter the inbox (or specific folder) based on whether or not the email message is unread, from the Windows Live Contacts list, from group mailing lists or Windows Live Groups, or from a social networking website. Categories appear under Quick views for ease of access.
Users can create Hotmail aliases for their Windows Live ID. Once an alias is set up, users can choose to have all email sent to that address go to a specific folder, or to the inbox. Users can send emails from that alias as if it is a normal email address. Up to 5 aliases can be made every year, and up to 15 in total. Aliases are completely different to the user's original addresses, and can be removed/created at any time. Aliases are not actual Windows Live IDs, so users can not sign in with them.
Categories allow users to label messages or senders into a particular group, and those categories will appear under "Quick views" in the sidebar. Some categories are created by default, and some mail is put in those categories by default (e.g. photos, office docs and newsletters). Users can select multiple categories for each piece of mail, have categories applied automatically, and create new ones.
Instant actions are buttons that appear when a user hovers the mouse over a message. Examples of instant actions are delete, move, sweep, and flag, and they are customizable in options.
Upon registration, new users can choose from a Hotmail domain address (@hotmail.com, @live.com, @msn.com, and @outlook.com).
A single-use code is a code one can use instead of their password when they sign in with their Microsoft account. Each code can be used only one time, but one can request one whenever they need it. If a user is signing in on a public computer—like at the library or school—using a single-use code helps keep their account information secure. The single-use code is sent to the user when requested during login.
|Feature||Hotmail (free version)||Hotmail Plus (paid)|
|Initial email storage capacity||5 GB (growing automatically)||10 GB (growing automatically)|
|Email attachment limitA||25 MB||25 MB|
|Account expiry||After 270 days inactivity||None, when subscription expires, it turns into a free Hotmail account|
|Microsoft Exchange support||Available|
For access through Microsoft Outlook 2003, 2007, or 2010, users can download the free Microsoft Outlook Hotmail Connector. Using the Outlook connector, users can freely access email messages, contacts, and calendars in any Hotmail account, though access to tasks and notes requires a premium subscription. Another alternative for users is to use the Windows Live Mail desktop client, which has built-in support for Hotmail. Both applications, Windows Live Mail and Microsoft Outlook, can access Hotmail through the proprietary DeltaSync protocol. Currently, no Mac alternative utilizing DeltaSync exists, as Microsoft Entourage does not support it. There has been no word from Microsoft Entourage or Windows Live Hotmail as to whether an "Entourage Connector" will be available in the future.
As part of the Hotmail "Wave 4" release, Microsoft has added Exchange ActiveSync support to Hotmail, allowing users to synchronise their email, contacts, and calendar on any device that supports the Exchange ActiveSync protocol.
Push email, contacts, and calendar is available for Android users by an Android app developed by Microsoft.
Like many free Webmail services, Hotmail is often used by spammers for illicit purposes such as junk or chain mailing and unwanted marketing, due to wide availability, service popularity, and ease of registration of new accounts. However, Hotmail does not tolerate this practice. It subscribes to Microsoft's service agreement, which states any account engaging in these activities will be terminated without warning.
Hotmail service was founded by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith, and was one of the first webmail services on the Internet along with Four11's RocketMail (later Yahoo! Mail). It was commercially launched on July 4, 1996, American Independence Day, symbolizing "freedom" from ISP-based email and the ability to access a user's 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 markup language used to create web pages (to emphasize this, the original type casing was "HoTMaiL"). The limit for free storage was 2 MB. Hotmail was initially backed by venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. By December 1997, it reported more than 8.5 million subscribers. Hotmail initially ran under Solaris for mail services and Apache on FreeBSD for web services before being partly converted to Microsoft products.
Hotmail was sold to Microsoft in December 1997 for a reported $400 million, and it 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, and reported more than 30 million active members by February 1999. Hotmail originally ran on a mixture of FreeBSD and Solaris operating systems. A project was started to move Hotmail to Windows 2000. In June 2001, Microsoft claimed this had been completed; a few days later they retracted and admitted that the DNS functions of the Hotmail system were still reliant on FreeBSD. In 2002 Hotmail still ran its infrastructure on Unix-servers, merely the front-end was converted to Windows 2000 and as of today (August 2012) some servers still show FreeBSD. Later development saw the service tied with Microsoft's web authentication scheme, Microsoft Passport (now Microsoft account), and integration with Microsoft's instant messaging and social networking programs, MSN Messenger and MSN Spaces (now Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Spaces, respectively).
In 1999 hackers revealed a security flaw in Hotmail that permitted anybody to log into any Hotmail account using the password 'eh'. At the time it was called "the most widespread security incident in the history of the Web."
In 2001, the Hotmail service was compromised again by computer hackers who discovered that anyone could log into their Hotmail account and then cull messages from any other Hotmail account by crafting a URL with the second account's username and a valid message number. It was such a simple attack that by the time the patch was made, dozens of newspapers and hundreds of web sites published exact descriptions allowing tens of thousands of hackers to run rampant across Hotmail. The exploitable vulnerability exposed millions of accounts to tampering between August 7, 2001 and August 31, 2001.
In 2004, Google announced its own mail service, Gmail. Featuring greater storage space, speed, and interface flexibility, this new competitor spurred a wave of innovation in webmail. The main industry heavyweights – Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail – introduced upgraded versions of their email services with greater speed, security, and advanced features.
Microsoft's new email system was announced on November 1, 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 emphasized 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.
The Hotmail brand was planned to be phased-out when Microsoft announced that the new mail system would be called Windows Live Mail, but 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. After a period of beta testing, it was officially released to new and existing users in the Netherlands on November 9, 2006, as a pilot market. Development of the beta was finished in April 2007, Windows Live Hotmail was released to new registrations on May 7, 2007, as the 260 million MSN Hotmail accounts worldwide gained access to the new system. The old MSN Hotmail interface was accessible only by users who registered before the Windows Live Hotmail release date and had not chosen to update to the new service. The roll-out to all existing users was completed in October 2007.
It was announced in 2008 on the Windows Live Hotmail website that the service would be updated with focus on improving the speed, increasing the storage space, better user experience, and usability features. It was announced that sign-in and email access speeds will be up to 70 percent faster. The classic and full versions of Windows Live Hotmail are combined in the new release. As a result of user feedback, Hotmail has been updated so that scrolling works for users who have the reading pane turned off. It is also expected that Hotmail team will be moving the advertisement from the top of page to the side, adding more themes, increasing the number of messages on each page, and adding the ability to send instant messages from the user's inbox in future releases.
Support for Firefox in the upgraded Windows Live Hotmail took a few months to complete. Full version support for Google Chrome was also added on November 4, 2008.
As part of the update, Microsoft also added integrated capability for instant messaging with contacts on the Windows Live Messenger service. The feature is the realization of a project that began as "Windows Live Web Messenger" in 2007, a replacement for the outdated "MSN Web Messenger" service that was first launched in August 2004. It was noted that the original "Windows Live Web Messenger" featured tabbed conversations in a "conversation workspace", however since its integration with Hotmail this has been removed.
On May 18, 2010, Microsoft unveiled the "Wave 4" update of Hotmail, which offers features such as 1-click filters, active views, inbox sweeping, and 10 GB space for photos, Microsoft Office documents, and attachments. It also includes integration with Windows Live SkyDrive and Windows Live Office, a free version of Microsoft's Office Web Apps suite. The new version began its gradual release to all Hotmail users on June 15, 2010 and was completely rolled out on August 3, 2010. Exchange ActiveSync support was enabled to all Hotmail users on August 30, 2010, allowing users to sync their mail, contacts, calendar and tasks to their mobile devices that supports the protocol. Addition of full-session SSL was released on November 9, 2010.
Throughout 2011, Microsoft added several new features to Hotmail, such as aliases and speed improvements. In October 2011, Microsoft unveiled a "re-invented Hotmail", and added many new features such as Instant Actions, scheduled Sweep, and Categories and this update began fully rolling out on November 9, 2011. This update also made SSL enabled by default on all accounts.
On 18 February 2013, Outlook.com (a new webmail service by Microsoft introduced on 31 July 2012) deprecated Hotmail. Existing Hotmail customers are scheduled to be upgraded to Outlook.com later in 2013.
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