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What is Hotmail?

What is Hotmail?

Hotmail or Windows Live Hotmail, as it is now called, is a web based email service owned by the IT giant, Microsoft. It is a part of Live.com and aggressively promoted by the company. The service offers both free and paid web based email accounts.

The paid service, which is known as Hotmail Plus, costs $19.95 per year and come with added benefits such as increased storage space, no account expiration and, yes, no ads.
By the way, Hotmail is now known as Outlook.com and this is much more than a brand change.

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Hotmail history – the story of successful online entrepreneurship

Hotmail was founded by Jack Smith and Sabeer Bhatia and launched on the 4th of July 1996 (US independence day). Ir provided free email accounts that could be accessed from any computer anywhere in the world. Hotmail was probably the first to offer such a service. FYI, the symbolism of the launch date was “freedom” from ISP based email service.

By the end of the following year Hotmail had 8.5 million users and was bought by Microsoft (December 1997) for an astronomical sum of $400 million – each of the founders walked away with $200 million apiece! Not a bad sum for one and a half years of work, right?

Hotmail name changes – the brand wins

Hotmail original logo with emphasis on HTML in the nameThe name of the service was chosen because it contained the letters HTML, the language in which all web pages are written. And to stress upon this the original name was spelt as “HoTMaiL”.

Hotmail logoThough the logo was soon changed, credit must be given to the founders for selecting such a appealing name for their company. The Hotmail brand was very strong. It had a unique quality and a superb recall value.

After the acquisition by Microsoft, the service was renamed MSN Hotmail and went through many changes in the logo.

Changes to the logo on MSN Hotmail brand

At one time, Microsoft decided to get rid of the “Hotmail” brand and call the service just Windows Live Mail. But this confused users and the idea was quickly dropped. Such was the “power” of Hotmail brand – catchy and unforgettable. The web based email service is now known as Windows Live Hotmail.

Global reach and a growth in popularity

Hotmail’s popularity received a major boost after the Microsoft’s acquisition in December 1997. From 8.5 million, the user base jumped to 30 million by February of 1999 – more than 3 times increase in about 14 months. Microsoft was also responsible for spreading and localization of the service to different markets around the world. Hotmail soon became the biggest web based email service provider even though strong competitors like Yahoo! had emerged in 1997.

Hotmail statistics and market share

At the time of writing, because of its first-mover advantage, Hotmail continues to be the most popular email service with the largest subscriber base. It is followed by Yahoo! and Gmail – in that order. The following data comes from Wikipedia:

Service Number of subscribers
Hotmail 364 million (Nov 2010)
Yahoo! Mail 310 million (Oct 2011)
Gmail 260 million (Oct 2011)

In a study on the usage of email clients from about 250 million recipients conducted in February 2010, Salted Services, Inc. found that Hotmail ranks above Yahoo! Mail and Gmail. The email clients were identified by their in-house Fingerprint service.

Hotmail – the present status

Windows Live Hotmail, presently available in 48 languages, offers 5GB of free storage with up to 25MB attachment size. You can sort emails in folders and pick a theme to change the colors and images of the interface – customize and personalize your Hotmail account with themes. You also get enhanced security, a spell checker when you compose email messages and much more.

The free Hotmail email service is ad supported. However, the advertisements are not shown when one is composing a new message or a reply. Also, messages from your Hotmail account can be forwarded to one other account and you can download email to the computer or a mobile device (tablet/phone) using the POP3 email protocol.

Downloading Hotmail emails

Messages stored in your Hotmail account can quickly be downloaded to any computer or mobile device such as a cell phone or a tablet using POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3) which most, if not all, email clients support. However, you need to keep one thing in mind. By default, downloading email from an account through POP3 will delete them from the server unless you check the option of leaving a copy for webmail access.

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