Like much of the world, my first personal e-mail account was through America Online (AOL). Once I figured out I didn’t need a portal to get to the internet, I turned to the most visible free e-mail service at the time: Hotmail. It was easy to use, free, and it would follow me no matter how many times I changed dial-up providers. I left for the same reason many people did. The ads and spam became too much to bear.
Soon after Hotmail debuted, Microsoft bought the service and held onto it for more than a decade. Times have changed, however, and Microsoft knows it. The company is rebranding Hotmail under the name of its main e-mail software, Outlook, and rolling subtle changes out to customers that will improve the service.
“Hotmail is still the world’s largest e-mail service, with 324 million members,” David Pogue wrote in the New York Times. “But Gmail, only six years old, already has 278 million, and Microsoft was getting nervous.”
We’re still in the transitional period, but Hotmail will be accessible through the domain name Outlook.com. Microsoft is already offering a preview of the new e-mail service at that location. The site has a clean design–white background with red trim–and, of course, includes ads, but they aren’t quite as obnoxious as Hotmail’s ads were in its early days.
There are many great features being carried over from Hotmail including a feature that allows a user to easily move all e-mail from one user to the trash with very little effort. This can come in handy for those pesky e-mails you keep unsubscribing from that still won’t go away. One thing that is new, at least from my early days of using Hotmail, is its adaptability to the social media nature of today’s electronic age. As you communicate with friends, Outlook.com will display that person’s recent tweets and Facebook posts. You can share or re-tweet those posts directly from your inbox.
While some users may find this distracting, imagine the ramifications for your business’s social media marketing. You work hard to promote your business, and now you’ll be able to find new people to connect with during the course of doing business. As you converse with a client or colleague, you’ll have a constant reminder of that person’s social media presence, allowing you to immediately join in on the conversation.
If you use Hotmail to access your business e-mail, you’ll only need to login to Outlook.com using your Hotmail authentication information. You likely have your domain name linked to your Hotmail account, so you’ll need to change that information with your hosting provider, but that should be fairly easy.
One of the biggest complications of all of this is the fact that your e-mail address will change. If you’ve been using @hotmail.com as your e-mail address for years, you’ll need to begin the grueling process of changing it as your user name on various accounts. If, however, you’ve been using your domain name as your e-mail address, the transition will be simple–yet another reason to link your domain name to your freemail account rather than using the freemail account address as your point of contact. Your domain name is likely something that will always stay static, no matter what corporate mergers are going on around you.