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Eulogy for Hotmail
February 22, 2013 1:15 PM   Subscribe

As Microsoft prepares to retire its unfashionable Hotmail in favor of Outlook.com this summer, let's remember the viral marketing revolution that Hotmail invented. Journey back seventeen years to Hotmail's origins, the birth of the dot.com millionaire, and the boozy optimism of a pre-crash web industry in full-growth mode (Wired, December 1998) .
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (64 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I still want to know why it is that when I go to my spiffy new @outlook.com e-mail, the URL is: https://col002.mail.live.com/default.aspx?moptin=true

That seems like branding FAIL to me.
posted by chavenet at 1:18 PM on February 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


My first real, non-BBS email account was via Hotmail - brokenchicken@hotmail.com - and yet I can't bring myself to muster even the smallest amount of nostalgia for the service. Come to think of it, it's my only longish-term address that I fail to give a flying ball of shit about posting in an easily accessible forum such as this one we're all in right now.
posted by item at 1:21 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still want to know why it is that when I go to my spiffy new @outlook.com e-mail, theURLis: https://col002.mail.live.com/default.aspx?moptin=true

Because its the exact same thing as Hotmail, which was briefly Windows Live Mail, with a different skin.
posted by Artw at 1:25 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hotmail has been a weird albatross around Microsoft's neck for a long time. In addition to the embarrassing fact of the headline, check out the re-branding contortions chronicled here:

Windows Live Hotmail Was Powered by UNIX Servers until 2004
posted by Western Infidels at 1:28 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Back when Hotmail came out, I was ahead of the curve enough that I actually got @hotmail.com as my Hotmail address.

Now, for things like Outlook, even if I drop everything to sign up the second I hear about it, I'm invariable or whatnot. I hope they don't kill Hotmail. I'm actually a bit proud of it.

posted by Shepherd at 1:28 PM on February 22, 2013


(Also MS URLs from that era are all HORRIBLE - I am not entirely sure why it had to be so. )
posted by Artw at 1:29 PM on February 22, 2013


Is outlook.com different than the outlook that comes with Office 365?
posted by Ad hominem at 1:29 PM on February 22, 2013


Yup.
posted by Artw at 1:32 PM on February 22, 2013


I hear they're dumping hotmail because it kept hacking the email settings on people's ISPs.

Christing fuck that was more than 6 years ago. I feel old.
posted by dersins at 1:38 PM on February 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Friends, Mefites, netizens, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Hotmail, not to praise it.
The evil that apps do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Hotmail.
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:38 PM on February 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


me: My first real, non-BBS email account was via Hotmail - brokenchicken@hotmail.com

Oh gods please nobody google this address ugh
posted by item at 1:40 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


made you look - I am lucky enough to be able to report that nothing I farted out with that address has been archived. well, nothing too embarrassing, at least.
posted by item at 1:40 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hope.
posted by item at 1:41 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


My gay friend, who sees penis shapes in every single object while walking down the street, signed up for it because it sounded exactly like "hotmale".

When I pointed out to him that hotmail and hotmale were heterographs, he was not amused.
posted by Melismata at 1:41 PM on February 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm proud to say I never, ever had a Hotmail address.
posted by COD at 1:41 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just Googled brokenchicken@hotmail.com. This post has already been indexed.

That is scary.
posted by COD at 1:43 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


i briefly dated a guy last summer who had a hotmail address. needless to say, it didn't work out.
posted by kerning at 1:45 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Google monitors the Metafilter RSS feed so posts and comments index practically immediately.

I had both my real name and my handle on HoTMaiL before the Microsoft buy out and I was oh so happy to defect to gmail in order to escape MS mismanagement of what should be a simple thing: web based email. It was pretty glorious before that though.
posted by Mitheral at 1:45 PM on February 22, 2013


What was the story about the founders? They wanted to discuss startup ideas without using their corporate email accounts, which was all they had, so they built hotmail? They used it for a while to discuss what they should build until they realized they already had a product?

It spread like wildfire because every email had a join hotmail link in the footer.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:56 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I pointed out to him that hotmail and hotmale were heterographs, he was not amused."

He was hoping for homographs?

(Note also that the title of the Wired piece is, indeed, "HotMale")
posted by chavenet at 1:57 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now that i've rehashed the second two links.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:57 PM on February 22, 2013


I still use my original seventeen year old account regularly. Fuck dem haters.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:59 PM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hotmail users will still keep their Hotmail.com email addresses and their contacts and emails will all be moved over, they will just now get a new user interface and all the new features of Outlook.com.

Whew. I was worried I'd have to make a new email addy for my junk email registrations and spam.
posted by teleri025 at 2:00 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Still have it, still use it. When I got it there was only really Yahoo as an alternative, and that wasn't as good. No real reason to leave it behind has come along.
posted by Artw at 2:06 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


There was a moment there (must have been 1996, before they where bought up) that to a 12 year old kid just discovering computers, opening a hotmail account felt dangerous. Like you were inviting yourself to a party where you didn't belong.

Back then it really was a miraculous new technology that belonged to academics and the tech industry, and Hotmail was bringing it to the people, man.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 2:07 PM on February 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


I opened an account with HoTMaiL in 1996 that I used fairly regularly. It was much easier than my school's fourteenth level domain, anyway. (not that students were supposed to get email, but they did if they knew how to read their netware mail)

I took a hiatus for about six months. Upon coming back to Hotmail, my username had already been recycled. That's what I get for not having a computer for six months. :P
posted by wierdo at 2:16 PM on February 22, 2013


> "I'm proud to say I never, ever had a Hotmail address."

Um ... OK.

Why?

I mean, it just seems like a weird thing to be proud of.
posted by kyrademon at 2:17 PM on February 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I mean, it just seems like a weird thing to be proud of.

Indeed. Oddly, my hotmail address has worked fine and hasn't brought me any shame or disgrace.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 2:23 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


one of my first real experiences with corporate trust and confidence was because of hotmail, and it's informed every online decision i've made since then.

it had been 32 days since the last time i'd checked my email. i had been sick, and busy, and otherwise occupied. they deleted my account when i hadn't checked it for a month. years and years and years of correspondence with friends, memories, drafts of things i'd been using as notes to myself...

it had never occurred to me before then how much an email account is a diary of sorts. you keep your thoughts in an organized fashion, you can chart changes in your personality and opinions based on the pitch and timbre of your conversations, you can watch the "important things" in your life become redefined on a delineated timeline.

i was stunned and heartbroken. i was angry, i was kicking myself, and it triggered another bout of depression.

since then, i make it a default assumption that corporations have no vested interest in helping you or keeping what's yours safe. it's a simple thing to realize in hindsight, no great wisdom there, but to a 20 year old it sometimes takes a rough shake to open your eyes.

so no cloud for me, thanks, i'll keep what's close to my heart close to my hands. important correspondence is backed up locally. documents that are deemed irreplacable are kept in secure places and not just willy-nilly on someone else's servers. my trust in companies that, for example, purport to keep your data safe and available is essentially zero when considering any kind of long term solutions.

but more than that, i lost a layer of introspection on my life. keeping the important things makes good sense, but it's the intangibles that hit me the hardest. when was the first time i heard that album? what did i think? who played it for me? what happened on that one night when that girl kissed me unexpectedly? how did i feel on my father's birthday ten years ago? these are the things i'd never considered backing up, and no longer have the stomach to try and collect myself.

it's all my fault, i get it, but i don't think they ever understood what they were actually giving people, how the enormous communities were actually using it, or what what they would feel when it was suddenly yanked away seemingly at a whim.
posted by radiosilents at 2:24 PM on February 22, 2013 [25 favorites]


It was just a joke kyrademon. Geez, it seems like a weird thing to be bothered by enough to comment.

But back in 1996 there was a weird webmail is for AOL newbies vibe going around in the web dev circles that I hung out in. Nobody at the web consulting firm I was working for would use any webmail. Email didn't belong in a browser. Clearly, we didn't die on that sword though.

I don't remember using any webmail as my primary email interface until I got a Gmail account in 2004ish.
posted by COD at 2:25 PM on February 22, 2013


I remember back then I was training for a phone sales job at computer supply place in Florida and showing my fellow trainees how to get hotmail addresses and feeling all pleased with myself. How times change.
posted by jonmc at 2:26 PM on February 22, 2013


Is outlook.com different than the outlook that comes with Office 365?

The entire branding distinguishing Office 365 from Office 2013 is confusing:

With Office 365 Home and Business you get access to most apps from the Office suite including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher. Office 2013 Home and Student, by comparison offers you just Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote for $140. To get the boxed version of Outlook 2013 you need to fork over another $80 for Office 2013 Home and Business.

In a nutshell, Office 365 looks like a way better deal, if you don't mind paying $100 a year.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:28 PM on February 22, 2013


Geez, it seems like a weird thing to be bothered by enough to comment.

Um, you were the one bothered enough to make the initial comment.
posted by Artw at 2:28 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh man, that 30 day limit. I'd forgotten about that--I opted for Yahoo instead of Hotmail--and I'd forgotten how much heartache it could cause. Swear to God, my best friend went through three email addresses before she started checking it more often. Pretty sure she still has a Hotmail email, and I certainly still have my Yahoo email, but we use Whatsapp/Line on our iPhones way more often than email these days. The internet certainly has changed.

I will also note, with some bafflement, that were I to sign up for an Outlook.com email address today, I would have a work Office 365 account, a home Outlook account (loading other email addresses), and a web-based Outlook account and they would all be different accounts. That's a ridiculous branding fail.
posted by librarylis at 2:32 PM on February 22, 2013


My wife uses Live.com (and now the free Outlook service) for everything, so I got her a Windows phone. She likes it, and it works kinda sorta like Android, swapping out Dropbox for SkyDrive and it's exactly the same experience in many ways.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:33 PM on February 22, 2013


The current web implementation of Office Outlook is pretty close to the Desktop version in functionality - I'd actually use it in preference to the Mac version of outlook - though to be fair Outlook on Mac is pretty awful.

The Outlook webmail is a different thing entirely, basically a Metroed up version of Hotmail.
posted by Artw at 2:35 PM on February 22, 2013


I worked at Microsoft (in San Jose) when they bought Hotmail and the Hotmail guys were initially housed in the same building as us. Within a few weeks of the sale, one of them came to work in a Ferrari. We were all rather envious.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:36 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just "upgraded" my Hotmail account. It means things are shinier and whiter, but not much else that can see. I'm keeping my Hotmail address though; they can pry it out of my cold dead hands.
posted by Jehan at 2:39 PM on February 22, 2013


Yes, I still have a Hotmail address. Two, in fact. It's just such a pain to port everything over, plus I like having one spot for all my subscriptions and mailing lists. I did create a gMail, with the idea that I'd switch but there really hasn't been any compelling reason to...besides embarrassment at not being fashionable enough.
posted by JoanArkham at 2:48 PM on February 22, 2013


Many of the most successful Web 2.0 companies, including MySpace, YouTube, eBay, Flickr and rising stars like Twitter are prime examples of a “viral loop”—to use it, you have to spread it.
Wait, MySpace?
posted by Pararrayos at 2:48 PM on February 22, 2013


Friendster, Tribe.net...
posted by Artw at 2:49 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


You wanna know a secret? People in positions of absurd power or authority or fame, they all of them, to a man, have old/incomphensiable Hotmail and/or AOL email addresses, to the point where I know if I've finally gotten to the right inbox if the mail routes to some Sparklenotes69@aol.com looking monstrosity.
posted by The Whelk at 2:52 PM on February 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yea, Myspace. Were you not around in 2005?
posted by jacalata at 2:52 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I miss my @hotbot.com address, whatever it was.
posted by hap_hazard at 3:05 PM on February 22, 2013


I attend to university with a person who has pretty normal anglosaxon name. We were collaborating on an assignment and she gave me her email address, which was firstname.lastname@hotmail.com. She isn't old enough to have that sort of address and she tells me that she just signed up, chose her name and was lucky.

But i suppose the way parents name babies these days any email address is possible
tuliplove.jones@hotmail.com
posted by mattoxic at 3:07 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The entire branding distinguishing Office 365 from Office 2013 is confusing

As a Microsoft employee, I often wish we would turn our naming and marketing over to a bunch of monkeys. They can't possibly do a worse job...
posted by Slothrup at 3:33 PM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I remember the panic and fury in the fledgling open source community when MSFT bought Hotmail... IIRC, it was run on FreeBSD, same as Yahoo. Then we all giggled as the migration to NT was... less than optimal.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:25 PM on February 22, 2013


When I graduated college in the mid 90s I knew I would lose my school email account at some point and needed something to replace it with. My brother told me "oh yeah there's some free web based thing. Its called hot-something, Hotbox?" I never did get all the porn pop-ups off that computer.
posted by fshgrl at 5:12 PM on February 22, 2013


I signed up for a hotmail account at age fourteen when the idea of "E-mail" was new and exciting. Then I too became a victim of "inactive" account deletion and have had nothing but contempt for hotmail ever since. No nostalgia here.

On the other hand, I remember that during the hotmail sign-up process there was one bit where you were encouraged to sign up for a bunch of other sites as well, including bolt.com. I don't know if anyone else remembers bolt, but that's one early-web community that I'm still nostalgic about.
posted by moorooka at 5:25 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I had a HoTMaiL account long before Microsoft bought them up.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:07 PM on February 22, 2013


My hotmail account was/is my spam catcher. Outlook has now become my spam catcher. Was never embarrassed of my hotmail account, just liked the GMail interface better when I joined. I also have a yahoo account, which is my "not-vital-services" email.
posted by snwod at 6:13 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jeez my little sister still uses Hotmail as her primary personal account. But then, my Dad has DSL and still uses AOL as his primary interface.

I remember the furor when Microsoft announced it would convert the Hotmail systems running on FreeBSD to Windows 2000 Server. That's when their tech problems became outrageous and the scoffing really began.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:13 PM on February 22, 2013


Microsoft's managed to do just enough right among all the damage to keep me with HoTMaiL since '93 or '94, I dunno. It cracks me up that I still have archived forever spam from like, 1997, that I haven't read and never will, and they just keep on givin' me more Mb, now Gb, who knows, maybe one day Tb, to store it in.

It is devastating when the 30-day use it or lose it corporate policy is invoked, but it strikes me as a modern version of life's disasters (fire, floods, tornadoes, etc.), where one loses everything and has only one's memories and experiences left over. Those are of course natural disasters, yet our ongoing and deepening dependence upon technology/mastery of nature (debateable, certainly, but we wouldn't have close to 7 billion humans if we didn't have at least a Frankensteinian mastery of it) are beginning to rise to those levels, if they haven't already. Microsoft, and others, have--probably without doing so intentionally--truly begun stepping into the role of playing God with people's lives, and often with those Frankensteinian consequences.
--------------------------------------------

I'll never forget the first time I noticed the homophonic quality of the name when some friends from 'Frisco asked for my e-mail addy in '94 or '95, and gave me the most wicked grin in turn. Maybe that's why I'm still there. It makes me think that google could and should make a buttload more money if they promoted themselves as go ogle. It's what we all do, to some extent.
posted by riverlife at 6:23 PM on February 22, 2013


My gay friend, who sees penis shapes in every single object while walking down the street, signed up for it because it sounded exactly like "hotmale".

Not so unusual?

Way, way back (way before MS took hotmail) I was teaching students about the internet. So, to give them hands-on experience, I instructed them to type in hotmail.com and get their own email account. The piercing shriek from across the room alerted all -- one of the international students (a girl) had typed in ... hotmale ...

Some time later the college initiated (with a bit too much zeal) a system of filtering internet content.
posted by Surfurrus at 6:29 PM on February 22, 2013


I hate, hate, hate the use of the Outlook brand for Microsoft's webmail client. I do tech support and a LOT of people who are computer incompetent simply are not capable of telling the difference between Outlook, the program which is an email client and part of the Office Suite, and Outlook Web App, the Exchange web interface. Worse, you can't even ask "Do you access your email through Outlook, a separate program, or through your web browser?" because they don't know the fucking difference and will get it wrong at least half the time.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:22 PM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am always baffled by the Hotmail hate, but put it down to some technological minutia that is beyond my pay grade. I have always had a hotmail account, I send and receive emails, get very little spam, basically zero. I remember being excited when I received my first email from a Nigerian prince- which was only last year. I can search for old emails. Never seen the 30 day rule come into effect, but that would suck as I have 15 years of... wait make that 11 years of stuff. Maybe I have hit the nub? But curious if you guys know if it is an programming thing vs. a "coolness" thing? Certainly cant be about looks- gmail's interface makes my eyes hurt.
posted by T10B at 6:35 AM on February 23, 2013


So has the spam filtering improved? Gmail's spam filtering is spectacular and I and many of my colleagues haven't looked back since Gmail came out.
posted by juiceCake at 6:41 AM on February 23, 2013


So has the spam filtering improved? Gmail's spam filtering is spectacular and I and many of my colleagues haven't looked back since Gmail came out.

I took a call a few months back from somebody who was upset about getting a spam email in their Gmail account. I was completely taken aback- that happens maybe three times a year for me, if that, and here this person was acting like it was the end of the world. Meanwhile my parents' AOL account takes in 20-30 spam emails a day in the inbox. I guess it spoils you.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:27 AM on February 23, 2013


T10B: "I am always baffled by the Hotmail hate"

Lots of reasons to hate hotmail:posted by Mitheral at 9:42 AM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I remember doing tech support in this era and how often people would read ".html" as "Hotmail" when reading URLs aloud. Webmail mostly was seen as a newb thing initially but the value of having snappy central access to your email with no special clients or telnet / shell account access required to run pine or elm or what have you became rapidly apparent. Now I find it hard to see the value of using a dedicated email client outside of work.
posted by lordaych at 11:17 AM on February 23, 2013


And Microsoft's anti Gmail ad campaign makes me wonder if they seriously have no intentions of using your data to "sell you ads." The context sensitive ads seem a little creepy but why wouldn't Microsoft do something similar lest they face the wrath of impatient shareholders?
posted by lordaych at 11:20 AM on February 23, 2013


i have plenty of problems with gmail, like for one month you constantly couldn't sign into it, and now i found it was sending to spam emails i want from charities, so i moved them to inbox, so now it's not moving half the spam just letting me recieve it - it started to send emails from addresses i've been subscribing to for years to spam suddenly. I find you need more than one provider because you need backup, i have no pop type email, so it's essential.
posted by maiamaia at 2:31 PM on February 23, 2013


Webmail mostly was seen as a newb thing initially but the value of having snappy central access to your email with no special clients or telnet / shell account access required to run pine or elm or what have you became rapidly apparent. Now I find it hard to see the value of using a dedicated email client outside of work.

The Gmail interface was the first email interface I didn't find just short of physically painful to use; I'm still not happy with the changes, but at least it's not the unending misery of literally every other mail interface ever implemented.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:52 PM on February 23, 2013


My gay friend, who sees penis shapes in every single object while walking down the street, signed up for it because it sounded exactly like "hotmale".

I saw a guy wearing a T-shirt dsaying 'Can I have your MSN? Because I am a HotMale.'
posted by mippy at 6:45 AM on February 25, 2013


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