Hotmail is one of the four most well-known and widely used web-based e-mail services, the others being Yahoo! Mail, AOL and G-mail (also known as Google mail in UK and Germany). It was first launched in 1996 by its founders Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith. In 1997, Microsoft bought it for a reported $400 million. Hotmail then become a member of the MSN group of companies. Now, after re-branding and relaunching, Hotmail is being offered as part of Windows Live range of services. Hotmail uses Ajax programming techniques, like many other webmail, and supports some of the most popular browsers like Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. It has keyboard controls which make it possible to navigate around it without the use of the mouse. It also features advanced message search and can process structured query syntax (one may search using requests such as “from Matt”). Other features include message filters, folder-based message organization, auto completion of contacts, importing and exporting contacts to other applications, rich-text formatting, support for myriad of addresses, different versions of language and several others.
Users have a choice between two different Hotmail versions. There is the Classic version, which keeps the interface and the layout that is based on MSN Hotmail though it still provides all the benefits of the Ajax technology, including the speed. The other version, known as the “full” version, offers more advanced user interface premised on Microsoft Outlook, complete with a reading pane and drag-and-drop capabilities. The aforementioned features are available in both versions. There are some features that are not available on Hotmail which can be mentioned in some detail. They include the following:
This webmail integrates with other Windows Live Services in such a way that users on Internet Explorer can see their contacts who are online and may then start an instant message conversation using Hotmail. The contact information is automatically updated through integration with Windows Live Spaces and Windows Live contacts. The user also gets notifications of the updated spaces.
Just like the Microsoft Office program and Microsoft Word, Hotmail is capable of checking for wrongly spelled words as they are being typed. The ones that are deemed to have been misspelled are underlined in red and when the user right clicks on them, Hotmail provides a list of suggestions if available.
Hotmail has some security features including SenderID, STMP authentication, Trend Micro Virus Scanning, bonded scanning, mailing list detection, phishing heuristic detection and forwarding detection. Mails with attachments that are potentially harmful are not accessed unless the user requests access. This is intended to curb the practice called phishing, whereby malicious elements lure users to enter sensitive information which might then be used to commit illegal activities.
Hotmail has been criticized for blocking legitimate-mails, and the for the fact that just like Yahoo, it requires page refreshes with every click. Some applications that were once accessible for free now are charged, like WebDAV, an application that allows e-mails to be downloaded locally using Outlook Express or Mozilla Thunderbird. In earlier versions, every e-mail sent fro Hotmail had an advertisement added to every signature.
For more information on Hotmail read How do I read my Hotmail Inbox?