Friday

Friday 26/07/02Hotmail is rapidly becoming a synonym for frustration. Users have been getting steadily more annoyed with the service of late, as a superabundance of spam and strict limits on storage combine to make many mailboxes unusable without constant attention.

Friday 26/07/02
Hotmail is rapidly becoming a synonym for frustration. Users have been getting steadily more annoyed with the service of late, as a superabundance of spam and strict limits on storage combine to make many mailboxes unusable without constant attention. This week's little bundle of joy was Microsoft's unilateral and unannounced decision to delete all sent mail older than 30 days from the system, because the company reckoned it was "probably safe" to delete stuff that ancient. Needless to say, many people disagree. That's tough, says Microsoft, adding snidely that people shouldn't expect too much from a free service in a tough economy, oh and by the way would you like to sign up for the paid version? Hey, the company adds, lots of free services have just folded. Count your blessings. There are various issues here. It makes sense to limit a free service, in order to attract people over to a paid alternative, both to limit the costs of provision and to build a sensible revenue model. It makes sense to say that old messages are one of the things that won't be supported indefinitely. But behaving like a complete dolt and angering your customers, then refusing to help them out thereafter, is an act of raw stupidity. If Microsoft had announced the move 30 days in advance; if it had provided the simplest of utilities to archive old messages onto the users' PCs; if it had treated its millions of users with something approaching respect instead of telling them off in a most condescending way, then no doubt more would feel minded to cough up a few bucks and sign up for the better service. As it is, the knowledge that the paid-for Hotmail is run by the same people who just vaporised your emails and shrugged their shoulders will probably keep most people looking elsewhere. Postscript: I relay Monday's story of tent-bound ghosties to m'lady, the Scots historian. Of course, she is intimately informed of the Scandinavian legends concerning burial mounds. "They don't come with the wispy, walk-through-walls type of ghost, you know," she tells me, warming to her task. "Not at all. No, these have 18' tall warrior types with huge battleaxes. They're quite capable of taking off the roof of your farmhouse with one blow, before ferociously disposing of the inhabitants." So a tent wouldn't stop them? "They might pause to rip it to shreds with their teeth." Y'know, if I wasn't absolutely sure of her pure heart and shining intentions, I'd swear she enjoys making people go white. To have your say online click on TalkBack and go to the ZDNet UK forums.

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