Wednesday, July 6

Hotmail: 25 Years of the Forerunner of Web Email | Digital Trends Spanish


Those who have used the internet in the 90s (or a little later) will surely remember the emails ending in “@hotmail”. This popular name was launched on July 4, 1996, exactly 25 years ago, being one of the first totally free, web-based email services.

What does it mean to have been web-based? In short, Hotmail did not need a specific email client, but could be reviewed directly in the web browser. Not only that, Hotmail was open to all public; Until 1996, most email accounts were provided by telephone companies to their users.

Hotmail came, in a way, to open access to electronic mail: free of specific clients and open to all.

Most people associate Hotmail with Microsoft, but the service was originally the brainchild of Jack Smith and Sabeer Bhatia, who chose the name because it included all the letters of HTML. The service was so well accepted that within a year of its launch it was sold to Microsoft for the sum of $ 450 million, according to reports at the time.

According to Marco DeMelloA former Microsoft employee, the company’s original idea was to build its own web-based email service. However, they would soon realize that the task was more complex than anticipated and then the intention to buy an existing service arose.

Under Microsoft’s wing, Hotmail only grew. Although there was a name change and the service was renamed MSN Hotmail, the service was adding new functions and polishing its interface. Likewise, it was also integrated with other services of the time and also suffered with security problems, such as the infamous incident that allowed access to any email account with a simple password: “eh.”

Hotmail 1997

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Hotmail set the standard in the free and open email segment. However, that would change in 2004 with the arrival of Gmail, which little by little was gaining ground, just like the rest of the products of its mother company over time.

Over the years and behind the scenes, Microsoft implemented some changes in the way the mail platform works. For the public, the service kept changing names – albeit always with the Hotmail label – as it was integrated with new Microsoft platforms, such as Windows Live. For a time, Hotmail was called Windows Live Mail, but given the reaction of the millions of active users of the platform, it was renamed Windows Live Hotmail. The Hotmail name could not disappear.

However, there are things that are not meant to be eternal and one of them is the name of Hotmail. In 2012, Microsoft introduced Outlook.com, a free email service that basically replaced Hotmail; all email addresses were transferred to outlook.com, although it was possible to keep the old Hotmail account active, even until 2021. Today, 25 years after its release, it is still possible to log into the Microsoft platform with the credentials of Hotmail.

Hotmail in 2003

Hotmail was undoubtedly a forerunner of its time. It was not the first or the only free webmail service, as it initially competed with names like Rocketmail (later to become Yahoo! Mail). But it was an important piece in the opening and democratization of aspects of the Internet that are trivial in the 21st century, but that towards the end of the last millennium, needed a first stone.

Hotmail was undoubtedly part of the foundations of modern email and, above all, one of the most important shortcuts in the browsers of the 90s.

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