Windows Live Hotmail, one of the first free web-based email services, has undergone another facelift. Since it’s birth in 1996 and its subsequent acquisition by Microsoft, Hotmail has built a large and loyal user base, but user numbers remain under pressure from other web-based email providers – including the increasingly popular Gmail from Google.
New features for Hotmail include automated sorting and filtering, an addition that sorts email into categories, for example a category for key contacts and a category for notifications sent by social networks. There are now slide show previews of photos, videos and other attachments. Thumbnails from Flikr and YouTube also now appear at the top of messages.
The interface for sending emails has also been improved. Hotmail users can now send up to 10 GB in attachments using the new insert bar in combination with SkyDrive, the cloud storage service from Microsoft. Hotmail now also features tight integration with Microsoft’s search engine Bing, allowing content from the search engine to be included in an email automatically. Synchronising with smartphones should be easier thanks to new apps and tools that allow push notifications, including Exchange support. As with Gmail, Hotmail now uses secure SSL encryption for browsing sessions.
Hotmail is now on par with it’s competitors, but there are still a few problems that need fixing. For one, Hotmail currently doesn’t work on iPads, possibly due to the advanced coding a rich user interface needs. With its dedicated following as well as the latest improvements, Hotmail is set to remain one of Microsoft’s more successful online ventures.