Today it’s called Outlook, but hotmail.com addresses still circulate. And they were decisive in the history of digital communication.
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THE hotmail was born in 1996 and was the first free email service accessible to the general public. Its name comes from the initials HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) and a few months after its release it already had millions of users, attracting the attention of Microsoft, which acquired it the following year for 400 million dollars.
Like MSN Hotmail, the service enjoyed even greater success in the years that followed. And it’s easy to see why.
When Hotmail was born in the USA, by the hands of programmers Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith, email was very limited in use and paid for. It existed since the 1970s, but its use was very restricted, first to the academic community and only later to the professional community.
It was not only necessary to pay the operators for the email service, but also to pay for their own software that would have to be installed on a computer, and the use of email was limited to that specific device. Complicated to arrive.
It was Hotmail that made email uncomplicated for the general public, allowing access from any computer with an Internet connection and associating the famous address with @ to secure, private and efficient communication.
The tremendous uptake of the service showed that the world was more than ready for this new instantaneous way of communicating.
Hotmail: The Rise and Fall
Today we are around 4 billion email users worldwide and the growth rate continues to rise.
There are several providers of free email services, international and national, and Hotmail no longer dominates the market, but it will go down in history as one of the three most famous free email services in the world.
At its side, since 1997, has always been Yahoo, which never managed to overcome the popularity of Hotmail. This feat was only achieved by Gmail, which appeared on the market in 2004 and is now responsible for the largest share of the world market for this type of service, around 28%.
Outlook, the name given by Microsoft to Hotmail from 2012, holds only 9% of this market and is considered the second most used service today.
Its great initial popularity was supported for years by Microsoft and the commitment to its association with the innovative way of writing messages in real time (MSN Messenger), a beginning of the current WhatsApp.
This association would come to define the contours and characteristics of many communication applications that later emerged, including within Yahoo and Gmail.
Decisive storage space
In 2004, the year in which Gmail appeared, users had already made email essential in their lives thanks to the growing use of Hotmail, Yahoo and other similar services.
Storage space for your conversations was becoming vital and Gmail knew how to take advantage of this need by entering the market with an irresistible offer of 1GB of free space. Compared to the 4MG offered by Yahoo and the 2MG offered by Hotmail, this quantity and free space seemed inexhaustible and tremendously attractive.
This circumstance ended up serving as pressure for Yahoo to expand almost immediately its offer of free space to 100MG and Hotmail to 25MG.
But the exodus of Hotmail users to the new service had already begun, marking the entire second half of the first decade of the 21st century.
This change was further encouraged by the fact that Gmail increased its free space offers again, showing its new users that it was a policy to maintain in the future.
Despite the 2005 update to Windows Live Hotmail, Hotmail never managed to recover its users and Microsoft ended up extinguishing it in 2014, offering a free upgrade to Outlook to all who had remained loyal to it.
These users could do so by changing their address to outlook.com or they could keep their hotmail.com and these are the addresses that still keep the name of this pioneering service alive today.
Hotmail overtaken by Gmail innovation
It wasn’t just by playing the “card” of storage space that Gmail reserved its place in the history of email services, irremediably replacing Hotmail.
Its arrival was decisive in the sense that it also changed the way behavior towards the use of email changed. Expressions such as “conversation thread” (conversation thread), which designate the fact that conversations in Gmail no longer appear as separate messages in the Inbox, but grouped in a single place, were innovations that were initially strange, but which are now normalized as more efficient.
The same can be said about the change from the concept of folders to the concept of labels (labels), which allowed Gmail users to group and classify emails with different labels at the same time and not just in folders, as had happened until then.
The changes were not only in behavior, but also in mentality and are related to the fact that Gmail has accustomed users to the luxury of accessing an almost inexhaustible space for free by paying the “price” of seeing targeted advertising in a private space.
We quickly went from deleting to archiving emails, a more carefree use and more in line with the notion of abundance that the internet brought to the new rhythms of content production and consumption, and accepting the invasion of privacy in exchange for something without which we don’t know how to live.