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Hotmail Web-Mail Beta Test Ending

That's a headline I thought I'd never see--up there with "NASA Deems Pig Test Flight Successful" or "Nationals Take NL Pennant" (sigh). But it's true: One of the three Web-mail services is about to dump "beta" from its name.

Yesterday, Microsoft announced that its replacement for Hotmail--first named Live Mail, then Windows Live Hotmail--is launching worldwide. That means that a beta test that began more than 18 months ago is now in its last few days.

The new version seems identical to what's been available for the past few months. Like the Web-mail services from Yahoo and Google, it lets you perform common functions like viewing a message, filing it to a new folder, marking it as spam or flagging it for follow-up without having to reload an entire Web page. (When you hear people blabber on about Web 2.0, they're often talking about this sort of Web design, in which individual parts of a page can redraw themselves on demand.)

Also unchanged from the beta: Users of the Opera and Safari browsers get a "classic" version that looks and acts much more like the old interface.

Compared to the old Hotmail, the new version is a million times better--its storage quota is far higher, at 2 gigabytes; it's much easier to view and file messages; and your account no longer gets deactivated if you forget to check it for two months. Windows users will also soon be able to try out free software to synchronize their Hotmail accounts to their PCs for offline use. (See the developers' blog for more details.)

As for the competing service, Yahoo Mail and Google's Gmail: Both remain in beta, but Gmail feels more like a "finished" product. Yahoo Mail, on the other hand, seems embarrassingly unfinished for something that's been in beta for 20 months. For example, Safari users can't try the new interface at all, and if you want to adjust your filters, you have to switch back to the old interface. Also, in my experience, Yahoo's spam filter remains the weakest around (of the 12 new messages in my Yahoo inbox this morning, 10 were the most obvious sort of junk mail).

For me, Gmail remains the best option of these three. (Note that I only use Web-mail for commercial messages, not personal correspondence, so I don't have to think about having Google's computers match ads to e-mail from friends and family.) What do you think? Does the new Windows Live Hotmail interest you?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  May 7, 2007; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  The Web  
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Posted by: Dave | May 7, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I was a beta tester for Live Mail, which is a decent service. I got involved with GMail early on, and find it to be far superior to Microsoft's product (as usual). There really is no reason to even consider yahoo...their biggest mistake was dropping the Google search engine in the first place.

Posted by: STicker | May 7, 2007 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Yahoo! Mail is the best. I tried the "newer" version of Yahoo! Mail, but I didn't like it. I want my web mail to be simple and load quickly. Strip it down to the basics...I don't need fancy bells & whistles!

Posted by: Bill | May 7, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I totally agree with you. HotMail gives me problems sometimes,
so I switched to Gmail. I love it ! The only problem is I can NOT create a "contacts folder." Gmail staff (which were extremely fast in answering my questions) said I need to download a more current browser, though my current browser works fine in HoTMaiL.

Posted by: Rob Tschudi | May 7, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I personally use gmail its much better than hotmail. I just let my hotmail expire, it was worthless.

Posted by: Bill Gates | May 7, 2007 12:44 PM | Report abuse

This whole web mail idea has never really interested me. Everyone should have there own domain and use squeal mail to access it away from home or work. Then use Thunderbird at home or in the office. Anyway.

I do like the look and handling of GMail. So I'm sure I'll like Live if it acts the same.

Yet I don't understand why everything needs to stay in Beta so long.

Posted by: Bobby | May 7, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Yahoo is by far the best. I agree with Bill, why do busy people need all the bells & whistles? It's something software people just don't get. They LOVE goofing around on the computer. People in the real world who have tons of interests besides computers HATE trying to figure out a jillion new things that they'll never use when all they want to do is send an e-mail. I guess it's job security for all the computer people out there . . . create a bunch of garbage that slows one's computer down then wait to get a telephone call to help fix it.

Posted by: Todd | May 7, 2007 12:51 PM | Report abuse

The beta still takes too long to load sometimes - they've taken a simple service and made it frustrating.

Posted by: timbnyc | May 7, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I have use Hotmail forever. I used to have a YAHOO E-MAIL. I did not like the spam that I was getting in Yahoo, and used to get a lot in Hotmail> When I was offered a chance to try out G-mail. I jumped on it. With the intension of dropping Hotmail, or Yahoo. I used to get mail from Hotmail, saying, that they were going to slove the spam problems, and big things were coming> So when Window's live came on the net. I jump on it> When Window Live first came out, it would take forever to load> I send then a suggestion, that maybe Hotmail, could dropped that boring blue, and add new colors (they did)> since the eighteen months, I had window live> I have been please> The spam dropped, and I do not used a high spam filler setting> The blue mail interface went to green,(sometimes I throw in orange). come on now is anybody, going to need 2g of mail storage. G-mail, I now tend to use as my main mail. In so far as Yahoo mail. I dropped it> somebody hack in to my account, and used my identity to post messages, on Yahoo's message board, plus, to get insiders information on the largest newspaper corporation I was researching at that time.

Posted by: rmichem | May 7, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Will the beta version automatically change to GA, or do we need to download or configure something? While I prefer Gmail, I have been using Hotmail for at least five years and have 100s of contacts. I would switch if I could easily 1) transfer my contacts and 2) let everyone know my new e-mail address.

Posted by: Lester Burnham | May 7, 2007 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Beta mail has allowed me to finally ditch Outlook and switch to the more portable internet version. It´s all I ever wanted in the first place. This idea is clearly the future, portable internet ready applications that can be used anywhere, anytime. Hurry up google!

Posted by: William Davies | May 7, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

The spam filter is the most important email feature nowadays. All the other stuff, like preloading message in the background to speed up display, is much eye candy.

The Google spam filter is awesome. I dropped the Yahoo mail service several months ago because its spam filter was so weak.

Posted by: Tammy Weston | May 7, 2007 1:17 PM | Report abuse

The way they're playing you'll see "Flying Pig Takes NL Pennant" before the Nats are in that headline. LOL

Posted by: NatsFan | May 7, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

If you use the Adblock extension in Firefox, ads pretty much all disappear, so they are not an issue in making a selection like this.

I agree about Yahoo, I still use the old interface, the new one is just less useful.

Changing that account deletion "feature" Hotmail "offered" is a huge improvement.

Having used all three, I will stick with Gmail and Yahoo.

Thanks for the info though!

Posted by: ravenrose | May 7, 2007 1:37 PM | Report abuse

With Microsoft in merger talks with Yahoo we might see vast improvement coming, to rival Google's current search engine dominance and Gmail.

Posted by: Jason Green | May 7, 2007 1:42 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: YAHOO | May 7, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I have found windows live mail to work out great! I do not have problems with the junk mail that everyone else seems to be having. I like the layout for reading and previewing messages. Although I have never had Gmail for Yahoo, I do have an account and seldom use it.

Posted by: Amanda R. | May 7, 2007 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Who ever the person is that says that their is no reason to consider Yahoo must not truelly understand it. I use Yahoo because it is the only one of the three that allows you to make as many email addresses as you like and have them all go into the same inbox. This is key to easily cutting off any email address that is used for junk. I actually give everyone a diffrent email address for me to see who is giving out my email for spam. It works great. Of course this is the paid version of Yahoo mail.

Posted by: gnd | May 7, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I liked Oddpost the best, but then Yahoo snatched them up! From the deal, I got two free Yahoo accounts, but just let them expire. I just don't like Yahoo. I have been experimenting with Hotmail, but haven't switched to live just yet. The new features, yeah, there's not that many, just don't thrill me, so I will probably stick to gmail for online messages. I am not too thrilled with gmail's spam feature, so only true friends get my .mac account address. Hotmail, just took too long to up its storage and design a more appealing page.

Posted by: umm.huh | May 7, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I still think Hotmail feels bloated and slow compared to Gmail and the interface is still unnecessarily cluttered. Maybe I've been spoiled by Gmail's cleanness but Yahoo and Hotmail frustrate me now.

I agree with your comment on Yahoo's spam filters. My Yahoo account gets more spam than any of my accounts and, annoyingly, most of it winds up in my inbox.

I have my email all forwarded to Gmail because of its excellent spam filters and my desktop email client filters the rest. Gmail still wins hands down for me.

Posted by: Boyd | May 7, 2007 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Why don't you use a web based mail service for personal mail? What do you use, your ISP's mail? I find that clunky because it involves notifying everyone whenever you decide to on a whim change your ISP. Do tell the facts and motivation here.


Posted by: Matt | May 7, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

E-mail technology has been obsolete for 10 years. I'm amazed webmail sites are still in business.

Posted by: Robert Chapin | May 7, 2007 3:16 PM | Report abuse

When hotmail first came out, it was a novelty, but when other firms started making the same idea well hotmail was only used by people on ebay and homosexuals.

Therfore hotmail is worse than anything else anyone else has to offer, and i should know, I am God!!!

Posted by: Matt | May 7, 2007 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I do not like Hotmail's current interface. The search function is also very poor--you can only search for a word in the subject line, not the body of the message. However, Hotmail seems to filter out more spam than Yahoo or GMail. I am not crazy about GMail. I feel like Google is too big. I have the Firefox extension "Customize Google," which lets me get rid of the ads and protect a little of my privacy. It's a great extension.

Posted by: A | May 7, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I like Yahoo's interface, but it is still annoying. The last time I tried, it was very difficult to scour the junk mail folder for the 0.1% of legitimate e-mails that get caught in it. I wish there were multiple layers of spam folders - the absolutely spam and plausibly-not-spam. When something was sent in 2038, I think we can safely say that it is 100% spam. Come on.

As it is, it is very difficult / time consuming to select the hundreds of messages with stupid dates and delete them so that there is a palatable number of messages left.

Posted by: slar | May 7, 2007 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I prefer google WAY over the others. I host my own domain on it, have a personalized startup page for everyone on my domain, shared contacts and documents now, shared calendarts.. Get zero spam (or close to it). The others simply cannot compete. Oh. And it is fast and works very well with all my browsers, as well as a mini-app for the crackberry.. What else do we need?

Posted by: Scott | May 7, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I use gmail daily, I will have to say that its capacicty seems to be the highest however I do not like the label function. I prefer folders. But I am glad that I can download all my email to my pc if needed.

Posted by: Brian | May 7, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

After using many, many web based email services, Gmail is also my pick.

Posted by: StevemanF | May 7, 2007 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I don't care for Live Hotmail's full version; I switched to the "classic" instead. Why? Because in the full version, to scroll in an email, you have to use the scroll bar -- you can't use the keyboard (at least, not the up and down keys). I get a few email newsletters in my Hotmail account, and like to scan through them with the keyboard. In the full version of Hotmail, the up and down keys take you to the previous and next messages.

I have Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo accounts, and so far I like Yahoo's the most -- it's easy to use and most closely resembles Thunderbird, Outlook, etc.

Posted by: Tony | May 7, 2007 4:29 PM | Report abuse

I think the new "hotmail" is just ridiculously out of sync with it's own services... the interface changes invariably to something totally different every time you click calendar or something like that... plus no IM. GMail is notoriously good with those aspects... consistency & IMing. Yahoo's interface & shortcuts are really good and IMing also will be IN soon. On the whole, I despise GMail for its privacy policy & even Google cockiness.... Yahoo & Hotmail remain my top two in no specific order... but Microsoft seriously needs to get a life!

Posted by: Nfinity | May 7, 2007 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I use Gmail as my e-mail hosting service under my domain. I get all of the same great Gmail functionality of the regular Gmail service, but under my own domain name. I like it because the interface is usually pretty quick and it's easy to navigate. I also like that all my my mail is archived, which has proved itself as a valuable feature more times than I can count.

The free domain mail hosting is the primary reason I stick with Gmail at this time, though I'd be hesitant to move even if it wasn't. I don't like getting a new e-mail account every time I want to try out a new host. The number of e-mail accounts I have right now has become a joke, and I'm quite ready to just hold onto my current service for a while.

Posted by: Schadeboy | May 7, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Considering the wonderful review of Hotmail's spam filter given in the article, I can't disagree more. I've been using hotmail for years, and as the star of the Windows Live Hotmail rose I began quickly to wonder if they were sunsetting the spam filter altogether. Hotmail has become my spam dumping ground, being too difficult to work with for real email and not filtering spam anyway it simply made more sense to accept the inevitable and use it to attract spam away from my real email streams.

Posted by: Edgar Dsark | May 7, 2007 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Mainly ISP mail for family and good friends. For Web mail? Gmail and Yahoo. If Yahoo would just tweak their filters and give more than 2 gig with 500meg max upload size you would have a winner!

Posted by: TM | May 7, 2007 9:21 PM | Report abuse

NEVER USE HOTMAIL! I will explain why. I used to have a hotmail account. Someone who received an email from me, wrongly accused me of sending spam and reported me to Hotmail. Hotmail CANCELLED my account without even bothering to check the email (which they could easily have since it was in the sent folder). Repeated requests for the account to be restored did not work. That was the end of Hotmail for me.

Posted by: Jay | May 7, 2007 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Been using yahoo beta for quite a while and still like it the best. the spam filter works for me. windows live's ok, but still have issues with's microsoft for god's sake. gmail is good, but for some reason, i still find things about it that make me feel like it's UNfinished. go figure. i guess that's why there's so much competition in this area!

Posted by: kevin | May 8, 2007 8:30 AM | Report abuse

If you haven't used Gmail, you have no reason to comment here. It beats everything else, hands down. That's all.

Posted by: Carl | May 8, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

While I have both a Gmail and Hotmail account I don't enjoy using either of them. Gmail is much better in terms of usability and page download speed (an issue when working in a developing country).

That being said, you'll never be able to drag me away from my Unix shell account email. Can't beat the low bandwith and lack of spam images

Posted by: Anonymous | May 8, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

My mother liked the old saying "Different strokes for different folks!"(Pun intended)

Posted by: Susan Dawson | May 8, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

I can't stand Gmail, especially the way they force you to sort and file your email items. I generally use yahoo but keep the same username on all three to corner the market.

Posted by: Joe | May 8, 2007 10:23 AM | Report abuse

I'm waiting for the DSL service "Qwest Windows Live" to be released. It includes Windows Live Hotmail. If memory serves, a "Verizon Windows Live" DSL is also in the works.

I will never use Gmail, for privacy reasons.

Posted by: TomT | May 8, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

We needed the capabilities of Microsoft Exchange Server - being able to access email from Outlook, share calendars with co-workers, wirelessly sync with our BlackBerry and Treo's, and not have to worry about backups or security. We use for Exchange Hosting of our mission critical e-mail.

Posted by: Dave | May 8, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I prefer Yahoo! Hotmail is still clunky and slow, even the new version. I'll never use Gmail, because of the big brother factor. I have a Gmail account, and I log in every now and then, but I never give out the address. I just can't bring myself to really trust Google with all the information they keep gathering.

Posted by: Bubba Snix | May 8, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Todd is correct. There is a place for simple and robust software product. I would love a stripped down computer.

Posted by: tS | May 8, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Yahoo's beta program is full of bugs and I am constantly having problems with it. I have reverted back to the old version. I agree GMail is the best option. You can enable POP at no cost (which is a big plus when working with mobile applications like to access email from mobile phone) and it provides far more options / features comparable with Yahoo plus.

Posted by: John | May 8, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Rob wrote, Note that I only use Web-mail for commercial messages, not personal correspondence, so I don't have to think about having Google's computers match ads to e-mail from friends and family. -- James sez, I think the inappropriate matching of ads to inane chatter is highly entertaining! You get three free non-sequiturs with every email. Fantastic!

Posted by: James | May 8, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I tried yahoo's new version for about 5 minutes. It is so clogged with advertising that only a tiny part of the screen showed the message. The hell with it. -- faye kane, homeless brain --

Posted by: Faye Kane | May 8, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I love GMail besides I'd have some improvements but they don't tell me what I have to do. I'm a long time Microsoft customer and convinced they do a great job and are much better than anybodyy else in their industry buton such simple programs like Hotmail they tell me what to do. In all such gadgets they are small minded. They easily could top Google if someone would make such a decision finally.

Posted by: Tom Hauser | May 8, 2007 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I have a Hotmail account and I get nothing but spam there, even though I rarely use it. I would be reluctant to use the "new" Hotmail because of it.

Gmail - really like the POP feature. I used Yahoo in this fashion until they disabled it in the free Yahoo mail.

Posted by: pp hh | May 8, 2007 7:44 PM | Report abuse

but gmail doesnt provide creation of a new folder where we can group the mails as in yahoo.

Posted by: nithin | May 9, 2007 4:01 AM | Report abuse

Although GMail is a lot better when it comes to features, I feel GMail still requires a lot of enhancements on the security side.

Apart from Key Word lookup in our email, Gmail fails to log out itself if the session is left open for long hours. And some time when you close the internet explorer with out logging off the GMail and the next time you open a blank internet explorer, the Gmail inbox with complete access shows up.

Posted by: krrish | May 9, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe how mis-informed people are these days.

The redraw without refresh has nothing to do with Web 2.0 it's a component called AJAX.

The benefits you outlined with hotmail are entirely due to policy, not features. More space, and being able to sync with pop clients are features that are policy based. Prior to Microsoft's acquisition of Hotmail, this was a common function.
Not expiring your account after a month of not logging in?..this is also not a function, just policy.

Its exactly this kind of dis-information that makes the Internet technologies difficult for the average user.

Please research your information PRIOR to posting it.

Over all if ISP's were to take SPF seriously, there would be a huge reduction in spam, but it really isn't in their best interest to do so. After all, most companies are charging you for bandwidth, so to reduce that is to reduce their bottom line.

Feature for feature, gmail is your best bet. Or a private company, but that mail would not be free.


Posted by: Adam | May 9, 2007 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Strange that I never find spam in either of my two Yahoo boxes and very little in my G mail. I tried Hot Mail and could not keep the spam out and it was clumsy to boot so why try again when all other services are superior although without the "cool" name.

Posted by: neil holbrook | May 10, 2007 12:26 AM | Report abuse

As a "senior power user" I spend a fair portion of my time helping other seniors maintain and improve their computer skill, particularly their email and photos with their kids and grandkids. In my experience Gmail in tandem with Picasa, is a quantum leap ahead of Outlook or any other PC based communications system. It is simple and it works without fiddling with outgoing "mail server" settings, something many seniors who travel simply can't fathom. Thanks Google

Posted by: JH Elliott | May 11, 2007 8:30 AM | Report abuse

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