Comparison of Gmail and Hotmail

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Gmail from Google and Hotmail from Microsoft are two extremely popular free web based email service providers in the world. Though, Gmail is a relative new comer (almost 8 years younger than Hotmail) it has been able to gather a good amount of market share from the two leaders, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail – refer Gmail usage statistics for details.

Google and Hotmail – how they handled the launch

The launches of both Gmail from Google and Hotmail were memorable in the history of the web, creating much hullabaloo.

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When Hotmail was announced on July 4, 1996 (US independence day), it was probably the first service to offer free web based email accounts that could be accessed from anywhere with a computer that’s connected to the Internet; the launch date symbolizing a “freedom” from ISP based emails. In less than 2 years, Hotmail had 8.5 million subscribers and was bought by Microsoft for $400 million. Hotmail was rechristened MSN Hotmail and is now called Windows Live Hotmail.

The unveiling of Gmail from Google on April 1, 2004 (April Fool’s day) was actually considered a nerdy joke by many because of the sheer size of storage space on offer – 1GB (one gigabyte) – when the competition was providing only a fraction (2 to 10MB) of that. Also, Google rolled out Gmail gradually, through the use of invites which could be sent to prospects only by current account holders. This way the company could monitor and improve the service and avoid a major crash of its web servers by a surge of subscribers rushing in to sign up for a free email account.

Comparison – Gmail from Google and Hotmail free email accounts

Now let’s start with the comparison, however, please bear in mind that not many of the features can be quantified, for example, “ease-of-use” or the intuitiveness of the interface. Also, the list below is in no way “complete”. Your inputs and suggestions are always welcome.

Note: The internet is a vast rapidly transforming “blob”. The information presented below was correct at the time of writing but will definitely change in the near future. If you spot an item that needs to be modified, please do let me know via the feedback form at the end of the page.

Service Gmail Hotmail
Storage space 7.2GB and increasing daily 5GB
Attachment size 20MB 10MB
Email forwarding Yes Only to other Hotmail or accounts
POP access Yes No – but in the offing (?)
Update: Free Hotmail POP access has started in a few countries.
IMAP access Yes No
Can emails be downloaded? Gmail emails can be downloaded via many popular email clients Email download from Hotmail accounts is only through Windows Live Mail. Hotmail on Outlook Express and Windows Mail has been discontinued or may be patchy.
Update: With POP access no available, Hotmail emails can be downloaded using any email program that supports the Post Office Protocol
Folder to store spam Yes Yes
Autoreplies Yes Yes – vacation autoreply in Hotmail
Custom folder creation No Yes – great for organizing your emails. Read Hotmail folders for more information.
Filters Yes – refer Gmail filters Yes
Themes – customization of interface Yes – Gmail themes Yes – Learn more on how to personalize and customize through Hotmail themes
Deactivation if not in use 9 months 120 days
Rich-text email composition Yes – also offers ASCII format on the basic HTML version Yes
Spellchecker Yes Yes
Anti-virus for scanning incoming messages Yes Yes – Trend Micro virus scanner
Contacts list Yes Yes
Email signatures Yes – Learn how to create Gmail email signatures Yes – refer Hotmail Signatures
Languages supported 52 35
Number of versions 2 – Basic HTML for slower connections and standard version – more on Gmail versions. 1
Mobile access Yes Yes
Email search Yes Yes
Integration with other services Yes – your key to many Google products Yes – your passport to services
Advertisements in the interface Yes – text ads No – Ads are attached at the bottom of outgoing emails. Some users mention seeing banners at the top… probably geo-targeted ads.
Ease of use Yes – though the concept of labels can be confusing at the beginning Yes
Interface layout Basic and clear Elegant
Name of service Gmail – Google Mail in the UK and Germany Windows Live Mail (formerly MSN Hotmail)
Has a paid version? Yes – Google Enterprise Yes – Hotmail Plus
Thumbmail view of images Yes Yes – well, sort of
File storage Yes – learn more about Gmail storage. No

Based on the above comparison, a lot of you would feel Gmail is the winner hands down… and you may be right. But remember Hotmail has a huge number of subscribers probably many times more than Gmail (refer Gmail usage statistics for details). Anyway, let me know which of these services you prefer.

Gmail Hotmail