Checking your email from virtually any computer, as well as mobile devices connected such as laptops, tablets or smart phones being anywhere, today seems something normal and quite common, which indeed it is.
However, in the decade of 1990 things were quite different about using the internet, since it was not the service platform we know these days, but a limited tool that would look prehistoric and obsolete if we compare it to the massive and smart cyberspace that exists now.
Since, Hotmail was the first free email service that worked completely online though its web page. Of course, until today Hotmail has had its own evolution, from being purchased by Microsoft Corporation to be included as a Windows Live service, and then changing its name to Outlook, with no doubt Hotmail has experienced fast growth and some big changes through its history.
How Hotmail was born
Hotmail was born as an idea that had Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith in 1995, who knew each other in the University of Stanford and started to talk about a method to communicate; some sort of email technology that could not be spied or seen by anyone, and it also would work through the web and not using additional software.
Like this, in a few months the idea was completely set and established; an email service that would be simple, secure, completely free and easy to access from any computer having an internet connection and browser, working completely online.
Having the idea of a new email platform online, Bhatia and Smith calculated they needed at least 300.000 dollars to set the project in motion, a money that neither of them had at the time to create an alpha version of the program.
In this way, Bhatia and Smith started to look for possible investors for the project, offering the idea until nineteen risk capital companies, with no results since any of them foresaw the potential of Bhatia and Smith´s idea.
Then, one fortunate day the two entrepreneurs would meet Draper Jurvetson; an interested businessman that saw future in the Hotmail idea, so he offered to invest the 300.000 dollars as initial capital with a fifteen percent share.
At the time, Bhatia and Smith worked in Apple Computer Inc. and they decided to quit by the time an initial capital for Hotmail was on the table, so they opened an office in Fremont, California. Along with Jurvetson´s investment, the two founders request a bank loan for 100.000 dollars, in order to have financial and creative control on the company that was about to be created.
Releasing Hotmail and changing email service
A year later; on the 4th of July, 1996 and the day the United States celebrates its independence, Hotmail was released as an online service through the web, a date that was not chosen by coincidence but to symbolize freedom.
Regarding the name “Hotmail”, an exact reason Bhatia and Smith chose it has not been published yet, but anecdotally the first logo had a selective use of capital letters; being written “HoTMaiL” as some type of acronym referring to “HTML” as the computer language to write web sites.
Thanks to Bathia and Smith and their idea that later on became Hotmail, internet users had the opportunity to start using and enjoying email as a web platform, only requiring a computer, a web browser and a capable connection, without the need of using a paid software that had to be installed. A few months later, Hotmail already had a million users; a huge number at the time.
Hotmail and the purchase by Microsoft
On December of 1996, only four months Hotmail was released the service already had at least a half million users, and that was only the tip of the iceberg. In detail, Bhatia realized about the huge influence emails could have on marketing and business strategies, since every message from his platform could act as advertising service.
Because of this exponential growth, Bill Gates; founder of Microsoft showed interest on Hotmail and him and Bhatia had a meeting in 1997, a time where Hotmail had more than six million users and counting.
In details, Gates wanted to buy Hotmail completely or at least the most part, so Bhatia asked him for 500 million dollars to buy the entire platform. At the end, the deal was closed at 400 million dollars; an amount that at that time was huge and surpass any expectations. Like this, Microsoft got almost three million shares of Hotmail and by December, 1997 the whole company.
Hotmail and Microsoft services
Regardless Microsoft acquired Hotmail, the big company did not change its name and carried on using the brand as people knew it; it just add MSN to call it MSN Hotmail. Of course, Hotmail was integrated into other Microsoft services such as MSN Messenger, Expedia, CarPoint, and others, so users could use their same Hotmail address to use them any time.
Also, Microsoft added the possibility to open new Hotmail account in different languages, such as Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and many more.
And of course, since Hotmail was bought by Microsoft with the pass of time the email service was changed, in terms of design, functioning and other aspects, changing its initial logo and being more suitable to Microsoft´s layout in its services at the time. However, Hotmail´s main purpose and idea never changed.
Security issues in Hotmail
Hotmail was far from being a perfect service, since many times during its history it was attacked by hackers, affecting millions of users and their accounts´ privacy by finding flaws in the platform. For example, in the year of 2000 users received mail telling them to close their account because the system was about to fall, since there were too many users to handle.
In 2004, Google released its own email service to compete directly with Hotmail, offering a more intuitive layout, more storage capacity and an easier attachment process of documents and images, since it was based on the cloud from the beginning.
In 2011, when Hotmail was changed to Windows Live Hotmail, the newest platform gave plenty of troubles to millions of users, when they realized they lost mails and messages saved for years due to its importance, what brought a lot of complains and it was enough reason for many users to change email service provider.
Hotmail and its modern evolution
In the year of 2005, Microsoft renewed all of its services by integrating them into one platform; Windows Live, so Hotmail was now called Windows Live Hotmail, being the official released on May, 7 of 2005, giving the possibility to all users to migrate into the new and better platform.
Nevertheless, the biggest breakthrough so far in relation to Hotmail and its evolution was carried out in 2103, when all Hotmail accounts were migrated to a new platform called Outlook; being the way Microsoft ‘mail platform is known today, removing the Hotmail brand after almost fifteen years of using it.
In this case, all Hotmail accounts were migrated automatically and the layout and design was more intuitive, corresponding to the Metro interface used on Windows 8 at the time. Also, integration with other Microsoft services was improved, giving the chance to use Office, Skype, XBOX, OneDrive and other platforms in just one place, being a way to still competing with Gmail.