Hotmail is one of the most popular free web based email services in the world coming second only to Yahoo! Mail – please refer the article on Gmail usage statistics for details. It was launched in 1996 (U.S. Independence day – 4th of July) and bought by Microsoft after about 1. 5 years for an estimated $400 million with a subscriber base of 8.5 million users. Using their marketing prowess and deep pockets, Microsoft was able to increase this number manifold.
At the time of writing the free Hotmail account users get unlimited storage space with 25MB email attachment size. You can forward messages to one other email account of your choice. Previously, forwarding was allowed only to Microsoft properties such as other Hotmail.com accounts, live.com etc.
Free Hotmail POP access has (finally) been allowed on all accounts. You can now configure Hotmail on Outlook Express or any other email client that supports the Post Office Protocol. Also, subscribers who have shifted to Gmail don’t need to check two accounts as one can get Hotmail messages on Gmail.
Hotmail also has a paid version called Hotmail Plus in which no ads are shown costing a little less than $20 per year. It may also have a few additional features such as larger attachment size or a greater email sending limit, but I am not sure. However, I don’t see a great benefit in taking this update unless you want to attach larger files or not happy with ads being displayed in your account.
To get Hotmail Plus, login at your email account and click “More Options” in the “Options” menu. Locate the “Upgrade to Hotmail Plus” link in the left column and follow the instructions for payment. I also suppose paid users will get better support and help from the Hotmail staff.
Update (April 2011): The Hotmail Plus link appears to be broken! Maybe Microsoft is planning to remove it altogether; at least it seems that they are not taking new subscriptions. Come to think of it, what’s the point in Hotmail Plus when all free accounts now have POP3 and unlimited space?
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