Hotmail’s new look–15 years and going strong

If you’re like me, Hotmail was the first real email address you had. It was the coolest thing to see your nickname and getting really excited if and when someone emailed you. Hotmail launched in 1995 and was one of the first free email service.

Over the years, unfortunately, Hotmail started to lose its luster, especially with a whole lot of new free email providers cropping up like mushroom. Hotmail with its clunky design and lack of features (2MB space only!) got left behind.

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From left : (i) The small crowd of techies & bloggers
(ii) Unsubscribing from a newsletter with a dropdown menu within Hotmail.

Fast forward to 2011 and Hotmail is still (surprisingly) the largest free email service in the planet with 360 MILLION unique users per month who receive 9 billion and send 300 million emails Every Day! And in celebration of its 15th year, Hotmail is ready to unveil new features! These new features offer improvements in the vital areas of spam filtering (which is a big issue for Hotmail users), performance, storage and mobile compatibility.

“We’ve all used Hotmail at one point in time and we loved it for its features and simplicity. Things are a bit more complicated today. People want more than just an email address. Users want huge storage space, seamless integration with instant messaging and contact management as well as easy access across all mobile devices.

With our latest Hotmail release, we are bringing all this and more to our users. Hotmail has come along way since its humble beginnings. It is now more feature rich, more integrated and more secure than ever before. It’s the perfect time to fall in love again with Hotmail, “ said Barrie Ooi, Head of Windows Live, Asia Pacific.

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From left : (i) Attached photos will be automatically presented in a album format
(ii) Hotmail is coming to Mobile. In fact I think the Android one is launching later today!

Last night, I was invited as part of a select group of bloggers who were given a sneak preview of the new features launching today (press release was embargoed till 6am this morning) by Microsoft. Barrie, quoted above walked us through some of the exciting things coming to Hotmail in the next few weeks.

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The new features include:

  • Smart Newsletter Filtering which allows users to highlight and delete newsletters with a single click or unsubscribe completely.
  • Categories and advanced folder management that allow users to choose to categorize their messages in the inbox as opposed to having to file them in separate folders.
  • Scheduled cleanup allows you to automatically get red of emails of a certain age sweeping away old newsletter and out-of-date offers. You can also now keep only the last message from the sender.
  • Flags done right that position your priority messages right at the top of your inbox. No more having to mark messages as unread or email them back to yourself to keep them at the top of your mind.
  • Instant Actions are buttons that appear when your mouse hovers over a message allowing you to delete, flag, sweep, etc messages with one click. Users can also customize their UI by adding and removing buttons based on the tasks they use the most.

One of my favourite new feature is the Sweep function. The sweep function lets you select a bunch of emails then proceed to setup rules or filters on how these emails should be have (get deleted, move to a folder, etc). This will be really convenient for people who have tons of email.

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Hotmail has always been (unfortunately) associated with spam and they know it. In fact, they found out that 35% of your inbox is made up of spam. That’s more than 1/4 ! Thus, they have implemented a SmartScreen filter (made up of humans reporting spam and a computer algorithm) and managed to cut down the spam to ONLY 3% currently. In fact you can see the sharp dip in the left image below.

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Another interesting fact is that Hotmail servers has the storage capacity of 140 Petabyte! 140 petabyte =1400 terrabyte = 1400000 gigabyte! Not only that, they are continuously increasing 10% every month (or was it week? I forgot.) That’s how Hotmail can give you virtually unlimited storage. Best part is, you can send attachments of up to 100MB – compared to the usual 10MB!

After a scrumptious dinner at Apartment, KLCC and an interesting demo and discussion with Barrie, we were given instructions not to announce anything until the press conference with media today. We were also given some Windows Live goodies. I also won a set of Windows Live plushies! Don’t they look cute?

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So what do you think? I think Hotmail’s new features looks very useful and this puts them back in the running with the other big email giants like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail. Was Hotmail your first email too?

Create your own Twitter Character!

This is a pretty cool “customized” infographic for you Twitter users out there. Quite fun and interesting project from the people over at Visual.ly

Get your own here – http://visual.ly/twitter

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One of my gripes about the infographic is that I don’t seem to have a unique URL to show people my character. So what I did was I screenshot the whole thing so that I can share it here.

Whoops my bad, you can get a short unique URL to show people. And also, I’ve noticed that it seems to track back only to a certain time, meaning the topics are what you’ve talked about in the past few days or past 1 week, I’m not sure. This is because my character this week is different from the one I did above. Also it’ll be quite cute if I can actually use the character created as my display picture automatically.

But still quite cute and good work from Visual.ly & @shanesnow