Newsletter Archives

  • Hotmail updates start rolling in

    If your mother-in-law calls you in the middle of the night and wonders what in the Blue Blazes you did with her Hotmail program, be of good cheer. For the next two or three months, some people will get the new version of Hotmail every time they log on, while others get stuck with the same-old same-old.

    What? You don’t yet have the new version? You’re left looking like a dodo when somebody asks you a techy question about Hotmail “Wave 4,” and you don’t have any idea how to handle it? Looks like you’ll have to live with it.

    Microsoft has posted several hand-waving overviews and videos of the new Windows Live Hotmail, and reams of detailed analysis. Those don’t help one iota, of course, when Cousin Billy from Dubuque calls because he can’t figure out which button to push. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t have any way for you to raise your hand and volunteer to get in on the latest version.

    You know that Hotmail’s huge: a billion inboxes, three billion messages a day, thousands of servers organized into more than a hundred logical clusters. When Microsoft upgrades Hotmail, it procedes one cluster at a time. (One cluster handles several million users.) Clusters are strictly set up as a load balancing mechanism for Microsoft – there’s no relationship between the age of your account, for example, and which cluster you use. That’s why your CEO might be running the latest version of Hotmail, while you’re still fiddling with the old fuddy duddies. The full rollourt should happen this summer, barring any calamitous problems.

    Opinions about the new version of Hotmail run a dime a dozen, but the people I know who have seen it are somewhat impressed. Easier filtering of “gray mail” that’s unwanted but not really spam. Integrated use of Sky Drive (in some countries anyway), so when your real estate agent sends 50 five-megabyte photos in one message- or even 200 50 MB files – your Internet connection doesn’t fall over and play dead. Conversation view, more-or-less like Gmail. Hooks into Office Web Apps (US, Canada, UK and Ireland only for now). Worthwhile stuff.

    Be forewarned, though, that the new, improved logon sequence immediately dumps you into Microsoft’s new, improved social networking goo. As the Inside Windows Live engineering blog puts it, “The moment you log into the new Hotmail, you can see … new email from friends and contacts, social network updates, shipping notices, appointments, and birthday reminders – along with a conveniently consolidated, privacy-protected stream of photos and updates from your closest friends on Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter, and over 70 other websites. The new Home page even lets you post comments directly to some of these sites and update your Facebook status.”

    You’d think MS would let you simply log on and check your mail, but noooooo…