Microsoft ends support for custom domains in free email service

Microsoft ends support for custom domains in free email service

Summary: For years, one of the best bargains in tech was Microsoft's free Custom Domains service, which allowed anyone to assign a custom domain to free Hotmail and accounts. Effective today, Microsoft has begun "winding down" the service.

TOPICS: Cloud, Microsoft

Microsoft has stopped accepting new registrations for its free Custom Domains service, effective immediately. The move was announced today on the Windows Live Admin Center page, where users manage custom email addresses.


According to Mike Schackwitz, Principal Group Program Manager for the service, Microsoft will “wind down the Custom Domains product” while continuing to support existing custom email addresses “indefinitely.” The service has been in existence since 2005.

The move matches one that archrival Google made in December 2012, when it closed its Google Apps Free Edition. (That service had been in existence since 2006.) Today, Google Apps for Business costs $50 per user per year, with extra charges for enterprise features such as email archiving.

Microsoft’s goal is to move its customers to paid products, including the $60-a-year Office 365 Small Business (which includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online) and the $150-a-year Office 365 Small Business Premium (which adds a license to install the Office desktop programs and mobile apps for business use). All of the Office 365 business products include the ability to attach custom domains and create multiple aliases for a single address. (Office 365 Home Premium, a less expensive product, does not use Exchange Online nor does it support the addition of custom domains.)

According to a company spokesperson, existing customers will get a promotional offer:

Microsoft will offer existing custom domain customers a complimentary three month subscription to Office 365 Small Business Premium. Current customers using custom domains with will be notified via email in the coming weeks with further details and instructions.

The complimentary subscriptions will be available for up to five accounts and cannot be added to an existing Office 365 account.

I’ve written previously about using this service with several custom domains I own, and even wrote a tutorial on how to use the service to assign a custom domain to Microsoft’s free (formerly Hotmail) service. Based on reader email I received, a lot of you took advantage of that service for both personal use and small business domains.

Although the service no longer allows you to assign a new custom domain to, administrators of currently enrolled domains can continue to add and remove existing addresses for approximately two more months. On a yet-to-be-determined date in June (or perhaps July), administrators will lose the ability to create new addresses in the administrative control panel, and existing custom addresses will become standalone accounts, using the same custom address but managed individually by signing to the interface.

The move is disappointing, but not surprising. The fact that the Windows Live Admin Center continued to use the old Windows Live branding and was never updated with the modern design of was probably the biggest clue. In addition, the service has always been extremely limited, with administrators only able to add or delete addresses. And the relatively recent addition of a prominent Microsoft Office 365 link under the Sign In button was telling as well.

If you’re an existing Custom Domains customer, you should receive a notification of the change via email. If you have follow-up questions, use the contact form at the bottom of this post to send them my way via email.

Topics: Cloud, Microsoft

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  • Hmmm :/

    This is a real shame as I thought it was a great differentiator for Hotmail/Outlook vs. most other popular mail services.

    I guess I'll just have to migrate my personal domain to a new Office365 service.
    • This wasn't a differentiator.

      Google did this first long before Microsoft did theirs. For Google it was called "Google Apps for Your Domain" which was wholly free. Google, then shortened it to "Google Apps." Google then phased out the free version for everybody except for education. Those who created Google Apps accounts for their domain names were grandfathered in. However, unlike this new policy of Microsoft, grandfathered Google Apps customers haven't had to experienced any policy changes, meaning there were no limitations to account usage.
      • it has been a differentiator

        At least during the period between Google killed their free service (December 2012) and now.
      • Sorry, you are wrong

        Google Apps for Your Domain started in 2006. Windows Live Custom Domains started in 2005.
        Ed Bott
        • Priciing is really high

          Hi Ed,
          its really sad to see the only reasonable service available to small business go away, does Microsoft think that the economy across the world has improved so much that companies will shell out hundreds of dollars every month to get these services. I have clients here in India who have accounts varying from 5 to 100 users, these guys cry to pay even for basic administration charges, selling them paid accounts is impossible. Microsoft should have made this a paid service at lower rates, not everyone in every corner of the world can shell out 5$ per account per month, most of the companies don't even need the office 365 subscription, they are happy with 2007 and 2010 versions, why force the users to migrate. This is a clear example of a Big Corporation shitting on the little guy. They have no regard for small business. It looks like the West is trying to hit on the emerging markets but pulling out services that are helping the businesses grow.

          I can understand, Microsoft must be in great need of cash, so its going after the small guys now, but i don't understand why it would take away the administration of the existing domains. Leaving the administration intact wouldn't have hurt its cash flow. May be, it doesn't want the already existing account to continue on in its server, this is a tactic to push them out.

          Its really sad to see this service go away.
        • Stupid Marketing :S

          If they need to move there customers to paid products, They can limit E-mail features such as limiting space, with/without signature .. And customers can upgrade if they want.
          But the E-mail price become more than Domain price And not accepting new signups... This is stupid marketing :S
        • Why?

          Any idea why they're doing this? What's the upside? People who use this service are unlikely to switch to a paid service, and all it does is cause headaches for the people who *do* use it. Why go that route? This was a good way to differentiate themselves from Google and others, and it no doubt drove some amount of adoption of the new service itself. Having the ability to make one's domain the hub of their Microsoft experience, from email to contacts, calendars, onedrive and the rest, was a huge, HUGE advantage, especially in the era of Windows 8x and the Microsoft Account sign-in.

          Microsoft: Always three steps forward, two and a half steps backwards.
  • Outraged

    Of course, it's Microsoft doing their frustrating changes yet again! This is going to affect me big time since I have a domain through this service that uses email ONLY. It's just another pitch for the company to get their Office 365 "in the cloud" used by more and more. But, I most certainly will not be using it!
    • That's right outrage..

      That's right.. outrage ... that someone no longer wants to give you, for free, something that many pay for already ...

      I guess 14 bucks a month is too much for you, for unlimited domains, unlimited addresses, etc.

      Its not the best situation, its not like getting all those oh so holy *microsoft* resources for free.. but everything for free has to end sooner or later.
      • Really? Why?

        Why should some of the Microsoft free stuff end, when it is being propped up by SO MUCH that is overpriced, starting with the operating systems?

        Perhaps if there were a movement by the company to price everything correctly, with a reasonable amount of profit on each thing offered, then it would be reasonable to end free offers. Until then, it is a way for people who pay too much for some things to recoup those losses in other areas.
      • Where?

        Can you point me to where you get unlimited domains and unlimited addresses for $14 a month? (Not being sarcastic. Really would like to know)
        • Me too

          I also want to know how to get this...
        • Host your domains?

          Host your domains on hosts like DreamHost. You get unlimited email and unlimited space and unlimited domains. Even if you don't host your website contents, that's a wonderful thing to have.
          • drawbacks

            Yeah, but it all runs on the archaic POP/IMAP protocols and lacks the full functionality of being able to sync contacts, calendars, etc with a single "hub" account.
  • So...

    ... now that Google and M$ started asking money for that service, will other free providers emerge?
    • Check this one out.
    • I wish they do :)

      I really wish better options emerge. But I was in love with :( Duck MS's shitty decisions :(
  • M$

    Just what exactly do we get for our money that we sent to MicroSoft.

    Last week I had to buy a new car because the car company informed me that my old car would not work on the new roads, would not be able to use the new gasoline, the brake and accelerator pedals were swapped side to side, the radio will no longer pick up the old AM and FM bands or the new BM band, the new cars will drive on the other side of the road, and you turn the key off to start the car.

    I was also informed that the door locks will no longer work, so be careful what you leave in the car because there are thousands of thieves just waiting to take your stuff.

    My new car is quite hard to get used to, what with having to go through menu after menu just to see where you are going, but it is better than having my old car's windshield painted black.

    I hope they never do something like that to my PC, or I'll be lost.
    • The best most tested and commercially used office suite on the planet...

      Good grief, stop whining! Their competitor stopped offering a similar capability years ago... are you slamming Google?
      • Stop Piggy-Backing Off of Google

        People did slam Google for canceling their free product. But Microsoft needs to STOP trying to do everything that Google does. I left Google Apps when they started to charge and started the free custom Live/ Now that Microsoft was unable to find a way to be innovative and different from Google, and find a way to profit off of their free email service, I will be going back to Google Apps and signing up for their paid product. If I have to pay, it's not going to be for the copy-cat version.

        Besides, Microsoft's mail is nowhere near as sophisticated as Google Apps to even warrant payment. Get a life Micro-Copy-Cat!