Hotmail Opening Up To Regular Mail Programs
This news comes today via the TidBits and Ars Technica tech-news sites: Microsoft's Hotmail service has quietly begun offering free offline access via any standard mail program instead of limiting that to the company's Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail -- which charges users of other mail programs $19.95 a year for the privilege.
Microsoft is ending those restrictions by supporting an Internet standard called POP, short for Post Office Protocol. That's how most traditional e-mail services work; if you've fired up a mail program like Outlook, OE, Apple's Mail or Mozilla Thunderbird to fetch your messages, it probably spoke POP to the mail server.
In this respect, Microsoft is belatedly catching up to Web-mail services from Google and AOL, both of which support not just POP but a newer, superior mail standard called IMAP (see my earlier explanation of its advantages). But it does put Microsoft ahead of Yahoo, which continues to charge for offline access to its Web-mail service.
Microsoft, however, hasn't bothered to tell anybody about the news. Although it announced POP access in other countries in a posting on its Windows Live blog weeks ago, there hasn't been any mention of U.S. users getting this access.
Update: Yesterday afternoon, Microsoft posted a note on its Windows Live team blog, formally announcing this option and some other changes to Hotmail, such as increased storage.
My own Hotmail account, meanwhile, doesn't seem to have had this feature activated, so I can't report to you on how it works. How about you? The Tidbits and Ars stories linked to above list the settings required to connect a computer or phone's e-mail program to a Hotmail account; try them out and share your findings here.
February 11, 2009; 2:20 PM ET
Categories: E-mail , The Web
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