Does the Hotmail name mean anything anymore?

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Will Head writes…

Hotmail was a revolutionary service when it first launched – and for a while with ordinary (read: not uber-geeky) internet users it was synonymous with email. We’ve come a long way since then and it seems Microsoft is a bit unsure what to do with the Hotmail name.

Back in 1996 when it launched just the idea of accessing email through a web browser was an alien concept. Browsers were for looking at grey text pages and poorly animated under construction signs.

However, it turned out to be a very good idea after all, so much so that Microsoft put down a reported $400m in 1998 to buy the company – an amount that many a web startup would no doubt be happy to be bought for these days.

But once it gained a certain level of usage, the spammers moved in – firing off their personal self enhancement missives to the millions of users. With such a large number of names registered, making up Hotmail addresses was a simple process – take a name, add a number onto the end, increment said number, repeat as necessary.

Now Microsoft has a shiny new brand for these Web 2.0 times – everything that it thinks will appeal to the hip-funky-webthings it places under the Windows Live banner. But despite the graduated blue logos, the Hotmail in the Windows Live Hotmail name just seems to detract slightly from the new-ness on offer.

Maybe it would have made more sense to keep the two separate – Hotmail for the old-schoolers that just want web based email, Live Mail for those that are itching for something new. It just seems that saddling what is undoubtedly a good product with a name that’s no longer cutting edge seems a bit like crippling it from the outset.

Will Head