Why Now is the Time to Take Another Look at Hotmail

Over the past year and a half, the Hotmail team has worked extremely hard to release both improvements to the service and completely new features that help people work through their e-mail quicker.

Unquestionably, we’re all extremely proud of the product we’ve created – today more than ever.

At the same time, we understand that there’s still a perception that Hotmail is slow, spammy, lacking on storage – essentially outdated.

We looked at that as a challenge. Why not go above and beyond to not only fix the pain points but create an inbox that feels like a true upgrade compared to the others out there?

So we could tell you that the perception is no longer reality, but it may be more effective to go a step further and prove that – with actual data. And I’ll provide a sneak peak at some of the cool features we’re adding over the fall to help our users manage their inboxes.

We made Hotmail really, really fast

It’s always been a goal of ours to make Hotmail feel more like a desktop application. We’ve borrowed interface elements from Outlook (e.g., the reading pane, right click/drag actions), we support pinning to the Windows 7 taskbar with Internet Explorer 9, and, of course, Hotmail is great for managing e-mail from your other POP-enabled accounts.

Performance is hugely important to that as well, and this summer we did a lot of work on the service to make it faster. Compared to spring of 2011, we’re now more than 10 times faster in most places, including more than 20 times faster from inbox to compose and inbox to delete.

In order to make that happen, we implemented:

- Caching – we are smart about storing data in your browser’s Document Object Model (DOM) while you’re browsing your inbox – which allows for quicker access. (If you close your browser or sign out of Hotmail, this data is erased.)

- Pre-loading – similar to caching, but predictive. For example, when you load your inbox initially, we will pre-load some of the first unread messages in the background.

- Asynchronous operations – we’ll complete separate actions in parallel now. Delete commands are queued up in the background as the inbox refreshes, meaning you don’t have to wait for one to complete the other.

We block more than 98 percent of spam from your inbox

There’s no question that spam used to be a big problem for Hotmail – we agree – users used to see way too much junk in their inbox.

Today, we block more than 98 percent of spam from our users’ inboxes. That’s down from 35 percent in 2006. We attacked this in three ways:

- SmartScreen – our multi-product technology works as the first line of defense in Hotmail. We’ve got tons more info about how SmartScreen works in this blog post.

- Elimination of botnets – those clusters of zombified computers that can send up to 30 billion spam messages a day? We work with law enforcement to eliminate them – which helps to lower total spam flowing through the internet.

- Organization of graymail – while we’re always working to improve spam detection, we’re also helping our users better deal with newsletters and offers that they may have signed up for with features like sweep, customized quick views, folders and categories.

We’re great on mobile – Yes, even on Android

Smartphones are becoming more and more popular – and having a good experience across many platforms is extremely important to us. As you’d expect, we’ve offered full e-mail, calendar and contact sync on Windows Phone, but we needed to improve our coverage on other popular platforms.

To that end, we added Exchange support – which allows iOS users to get the full e-mail, contact and calendar experience as well.

While many Android phones now support Exchange as well, we know that many older versions of the OS don’t. For that reason, we’ve now released a Hotmail app which should work on all Android devices. (Here’s a link to the app on the Android Marketplace.)

Now Hotmail users on all major smartphone platforms can have a top-notch mobile e-mail experience. (Read more.)

We’re adding features to make inbox organization easier

While we’re committed to continually improving our fundamentals, we also love to add new features – and starting later this fall, we’ll release five new ones to help in our fight against graymail:

- Smart newsletter filtering – including “One-click unsubscribe”

- Custom categories and Quick Views, and advanced folder management

- Schedule cleanup – and keeping only the latest message from a sender

- Flags done right – pinning to the top of your inbox

Don’t want to keep old newsletters or expired daily deals? Hotmail can automatically remove them. Want to keep important e-mails at the top of your inbox? It’s easy with the improvements we’ve made to flags. And if you just want to move through your inbox more quickly, you’ll love instant actions – which let you delete, move or mark e-mail as read with just one click.

Looking for more info – and some demos? Check out Another Look at Hotmail.

Posted by Matthew O’Day
Hotmail Program Manager, Microsoft