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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.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  February 11, 2009; 2:20 PM ET
Categories:  E-mail , The Web  
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For years I was using hotmail in entourage (Mac) as nearly IMAP (it was some http based version but it sync'd locally and webmail). Worked nicely, but too much spam, and there were constant rumors they would take away that service.

Gmail passed it by with all the hotmail features and then some.

POP? Welcome to 1999, Microsoft.

Posted by: ah___ | February 11, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

My account hasn't been activated by Microsoft yet apparently either ...LOL... It won't accept my User ID/Password when the server is attempting to "verify my credentials"... on Windows Mail.
I'm in NY although how or if or why that would matter I have no idea.

Posted by: Kat1110 | February 11, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

POP3 authentication and retrieval worked for me. I had let my account lapse, and so I had to log on to the account via the web site first in order to have Hotmail re-establish my mailbox that had previously been deleted due to inactivity.

Once I did that, Thunderbird was able to retrieve email from the account without a hitch.

Posted by: Annorax | February 11, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

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