Hotmail's cold shoulder

Hotmail's cold shoulder

Summary: More people complain to ZDNet UK about Hotmail than any other email system. How well will Microsoft run other online services?

TOPICS: IT Employment

Email is the oldest networked application, and the most personal. For many people, it has supplanted the phone and post as their major channel for social and business use. It's not something they take lightly — and when it goes away, it's missed more than anything else.

That's one reason people are quick to complain about technical problems that affect their mailboxes, and why we get to hear about such issues more often than any other. This year the stand-out email provider of angst has been Hotmail, which has generated large numbers of complaints concerning long-standing problems it seems incapable of resolving.

We know that any service with millions of users will have a constant low level of problems to fix. However, we don't see the same level of complaints from other Web mail providers: the rest of our email-related traffic is a steady stream of people asking for Gmail accounts and the odd spot of trouble with Yahoo and AOL. Hotmail has a problem, and Microsoft's denials haven't made it go away.

In our news story on this, a consultant recommends that people move their email to the service provided by their ISPs on the sensible grounds that a commercial relationship gives the provider stronger motivation to fix problems. It's hard to argue against that, and the implications should give Microsoft occasion for worry.

It is easy to suppose that Microsoft isn't giving Hotmail as much attention as it might, and just isn't that bothered about investing in its continued success — especially with Windows Live coming up with its Web-based email service. Yet Hotmail is more than just an email service, it's a constant advertisement for how well Microsoft can run such endeavours. If people aren't satisfied with how well it's running, they're not going to go to another Microsoft-hosted email system instead. They'll go elsewhere, and they'll be resistant to whatever else might be sold to them as an online service under the same banner.

Unreliability can poison any product, but in the low inertia, high churn world of online services it can very quickly become fatally toxic. Microsoft must get the message: unreliable email is not an option.

Topic: IT Employment

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  • Judging by the stories about Hotmail problems here (and the deafening silence on the topic on MSN!), there IS a problem which has been going on for a while.

    But last night I could not get any mail from Hotmail via Outlook Express and this morning can't even log on to Hotmail directly. Messenger also looks like it's down (can't be sure - don't use it).
    What's going on???
  • Who bothers to use a webmail service that deletes your account and all email contained within if you cannot access your mail account for a month or so?

    I've had a spam-free account with Yahoo! that has rarely been down and does exactly what I want: keeps mail I can read from any internet terminal.

    No pointless make-overs to slow down/introduce new problems, a functioning spam filter and custom filters.

    Plus I've heard a recent speight of friends complaining that their hotmail accounts have been hakced/security questions guessed, hardly fills me with confidence.

    According to MSN I had a new hotmail email the other day (surprising for me as I didn't have a hotmail account) so I set one up, look at said email... "How to make the most from your Hotmail account"