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Windows Live Hotmail inbox Developed byMicrosoftInitial release July 4, 1996(1996-07-04) Latest releaseWave 2 (Build 12.1.0068.1031) / August 13, 2007Available inMultilingual(35) GenreE-mail, WebmailLicenseProprietaryWebsite

Windows Live Hotmail, formerly known as MSN Hotmail and commonly referred to simply as Hotmail, is a free webmail service of the Windows Live brand provided by Microsoft. The web-based email service was founded by Jack Smith and Sabeer Bhatia and launched in 1996. It was one of the first free webmail services. Hotmail was acquired in 1997 by Microsoft.

The current version was officially 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 and existing users in The Netherlands on November 9, 2006 as a pilot market. The world wide release was on May 7, 2007, and roll-out to all existing users was completed in October 2007.

It features 5 GB of storage,[1] patented security measures,[2] Ajax technology, and integration with Windows Live Messenger, Spaces, Calendar and Contacts. It has over 260 million users worldwide and is available in 35 different languages.[3]



Like other major webmail services, Hotmail uses Ajax programming techniques and supports the most popular internet browsers (Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox). Some of its features include keyboard controls giving the ability to navigate around the page without using the mouse, advanced message search[citation needed] 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. POP3 access is not available for free accounts, but it is available to paid accounts, starting September 2007.[4]

Users can choose from two different versions of Hotmail. The "Classic" version keeps the interface and layout based on MSN Hotmail, while still benefitting from the speed of Ajax technology.[citation needed] The "Full" version 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 some capabilities not commonly found in other webmail services:

  • Audio player
An integrated audio player which plays voicemails or MP3 audio clips after scanning the file for viruses.
  • Color schemes
Hotmail offers 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 integrates with other Windows Live services. Users on Internet Explorer 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 provides the ability to have contact information kept automatically up-to-date, as well as provide notification of updated Spaces. Windows Live Calendar will also be accessible through the Hotmail interface upon completion; MSN Calendar is currently available.
  • Reading pane
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. As with Outlook, the reading pane can be displayed at the side of messages, below them, or not at all.
  • Security
Security features built into Hotmail include Trend Micro virus scanning, SenderID, SMTP Authentication, phishing heuristic detection, Bonded Sender, mailing list detection, and forwarding detection.[2] 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; this is intended to reduce the success of phishing attempts. A "safety bar" is positioned 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
As with Office programs like Microsoft Word, Hotmail includes the ability to check the spelling of words as they are typed. Misspelled words are underlined in red and a right-click displays a list of suggestions.


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, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish and Ukrainian. Bi-directional language support is available for Arabic, Hebrew, Tamil and Hindi message content.


Upon registration, new users can choose from a Hotmail domain address (e.g.,, or a localized Windows Live domain (e.g.,,,,

Development history

Evolution of the Hotmail brand

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, American Independence Day, symbolizing "freedom" from ISP-based e-mail[5] 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").

Hotmail was initially backed by venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. By December 1997, it reported more than 8.5 million subscribers.[6] It was sold later that month to Microsoft for a reported $400 million, and it joined the MSN group of services.[7] 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.[8]

In December 1999, Microsoft neglected to pay their annual $35 '' domain registration fee to Network Solutions. The oversight made Hotmail, which used the site for authentication, unavailable on Christmas Eve, December 24. A Linux consultant, Michael Chaney, paid it the next day (Christmas), hoping it would solve this issue with the downed site. The payment resulted in the site being available the next morning.[9] In Autumn 2003, a similar good Samaritan helped Microsoft when they missed payment on the '' address, although no downtime resulted.[10]

Hotmail originally ran on a mixture of FreeBSD and Solaris operating systems.[11] Microsoft initially tried to move the FreeBSD portion of the architecture to a Windows NT 4.0 based system, but this failed. Later a project was started to move the system to Windows 2000. In June 2001 Microsoft claimed this had been completed; a few days later they retracted this and admitted that in fact some functions of the Hotmail system were still reliant on FreeBSD.[12]

Later development saw the service tied with Microsoft's web authentication scheme, Passport (now Windows Live ID), 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). A security issue appeared in Hotmail during this period that permitted 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."[13]

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. The main industry heavyweights – Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail – introduced upgraded versions of their e-mail services with greater speed, security and advanced features.

Microsoft's new e-mail 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 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.[14]

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, Windows Live Hotmail was released to new registrations in May 2007, and the 260 million MSN Hotmail accounts worldwide now have access to the new system.

The Hotmail development and operations teams are based in Mountain View, California.

MSN Hotmail

The old MSN Hotmail inbox

Hotmail was part of the MSN brand of services before the new version was released with the Windows Live branding. The old MSN Hotmail interface was accessible by only users who signed up for Hotmail accounts before the Windows Live Hotmail release date and had not chosen to update to the new Windows Live Hotmail. Users are now forced to upgrade to the new version.


Windows Live Hotmail was awarded PC Magazine's Editor's Choice Award in February 2007[15] and again in March 2007 with a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.[16]

Spam policy

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. However, Hotmail does not tolerate this practice, and accounts engaging in these activities are terminated without warning.[citation needed]


Spam filter

Microsoft's spam filter is known to discard legitimate emails without warning the receiving user. These emails are acknowledged to the sending user as having been successfully delivered, however they will not appear on the receiver's inbox or junk mail-folder. Mainly affecting small websites' registration procedures, this issue has prompted some sites to ban Microsoft emails altogether.[17]

WebDAV access

Hotmail is often criticized for allowing only paying subscribers to access it through the WebDAV protocol, which allows e-mails to be downloaded locally via a desktop e-mail client such as Microsoft Outlook Express or Mozilla Thunderbird (with the WebMail extension). WebDAV access was originally available to all Hotmail users, but the service was revoked from new free users since 2004. If a Hotmail account was older than 2004, it was still possible for users to freely access their Hotmail account outside of an internet browser with the above-mentioned programs using WebDAV. If users had a newer account, WebDAV access was only available in Hotmail Premium. In April 2008, Microsoft announced that Hotmail access through WebDAV would be entirely discontinued by 30 June 2008, in favor of the Microsoft-proprietary DeltaSync protocol, citing "obsolescence" of DAV and "greater capabilities" of DeltaSync as the reasons for discontinuing WebDAV support.[18] In May 2008, Microsoft informed that WebDAV will be available longer, not giving a new deadline.[19]

For access through an email client, users can download the Microsoft Office Outlook Connector which is available for free to users of Outlook 2003 or Outlook 2007. Using the Outlook connector, users can freely access e-mail messages and contacts in any Hotmail account, though access to calendar, tasks and notes requires a premium subscription in addition to the original cost of the Outlook product. Another alternative for users is to use the Windows Live Mail desktop client which has built-in support for Windows Live Hotmail. Both applications, Windows Live Mail and Microsoft Outlook can access Hotmail through the proprietary DeltaSync protocol.[4]


Another common complaint Hotmail users have is towards the advertisement automatically added to the signature of every e-mail sent from a Hotmail account. E-mails sent from Hotmail accounts using Windows Live Mail, however, do not carry automatically-added advertisements.[citation needed]

Browser support

Windows Live Hotmail does not fully 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. As of 15 October 2007 this appears to have been fixed, though for many Safari users, Hotmail now loads slowly, making it almost unusable.[citation needed] It is also not possible to automatically create a hyperlink by typing in only the URL when using Safari or Firefox on a Mac.[citation needed] Mac OS X users attempting to access Hotmail are commonly sent into an endless login "loop" where Hotmail will not open if users do not log out at the end of each visit. Windows Live Hotmail also does not work on certain beta versions of the Mozilla Firefox browser.[20]

Other criticism

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.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Hotmail Staff. Hotmail will soon bring you more of your requests, better performance. Microsoft. Retrieved on 2007-08-14.
  2. ^ a b Imran Qureshi. Why Kahuna is different (part 2). Microsoft. Retrieved on 2007-03-30.
  3. ^ Hotmail staff. We Heard You Loud and Clear. Microsoft. Retrieved on 2007-03-23.
  4. ^ a b Hotmail now offers POP Access for Hotmail Plus users.
  5. ^ Timeline of computing 1990-forward. AllExperts. Retrieved on 2007-04-10.
  6. ^ Hotmail, Microsoft talk deals. CNET. Retrieved on 2007-03-23.
  7. ^ Microsoft Buys Hotmail. CNET. Retrieved on 2007-06-22.
  8. ^ MSN Hotmail: From Zero to 30 Million Members in 30 Months. Microsoft. Retrieved on 2007-03-23.
  9. ^ Chaney, Michael (2000-01-27). The Passport Payment. Retrieved on 2007-11-03.
  10. ^ Richardson, Tim (2003-11-06). Microsoft forgets to renew hotmail. The Register. Retrieved on 2007-11-03.
  11. ^ Converting a UNIX.COM site to Windows. Microsoft Secrets. Security Office. Retrieved on 2007-11-03.
  12. ^ Gomes, Lee. "Is Microsoft Secretly Using Open Source?" (reprint), Microsoft - BSD, Wall Street Journal, 2001-06-18. Retrieved on 2007-11-03
  13. ^ Glave, James. Hotmail Hackers: 'We Did It'. Retrieved on 2007-11-03.
  14. ^ Hotmail staff. M7 new code shipping soon - not yet here!. Microsoft. Retrieved on 2007-03-21.
  15. ^ Buying Guide: Web E-Mail Clients. PC Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-03-21.
  16. ^ Windows Live Hotmail (beta) Review by PC Magazine. PC Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-04-10.
  17. ^ Goodin, Dan (2007-05-01). TheRegister - Hotmail Friendly Fire. Retrieved on 2007-12-15.
  18. ^ Microsoft Announces Changes for Accessing Hotmail with Outlook Express.
  19. ^ Responding to Customer Feedback – Disabling DAV.
  20. ^ Bug 396259 – - Hotmail (Classic interface) cannot be accessed from non-Firefox Gecko browsers. Retrieved on 2008-03-09.

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