Why Hotmail Survives

Todd likes to ask the question, “why is __________ still around?”  He asked it last week about Hotmail.  It’s not a huge mystery if you work in academics.

Hotmail, in the form of “Windows Live” email, exists on a great number of campuses across the country, providing student email that (in theory) integrates with other campus business systems (like class registration, emergency notification, and content delivery).  When clicking on the “student email” link on our college’s home page, students are taken to a page that says Hotmail on one side, and Windows Live on the other.  Their activated login for the mail is their passport to other sites within our system, as well as within Microsoft’s Passport experience.

As long as Microsoft has this link to colleges and universities, Hotmail will live on.

Back in the day, Hotmail was where it was at.  It was one of the first, and most robust, web-based free email systems, and people signed up in droves.  There were problems, yes, but it was still better than needing to be at your own personal computer in order to get your mail.  It eventually offered pop3 access as well, and then the Passport came along, and it was all good.  Not perfect, but good.  And many many people used Hotmail.  It was easy to set up, it was reasonably good at catching spam after the first few years, and it didn’t have down time.  As time went along, other free offerings hit the market.

And Microsoft was smart.  When gmail became available, they knew they were going to take a hit.  The only way to survive was the change the business model, and make Hotmail relevant.  They did that by providing Windows Live to college campuses, creating a model that could integrate with the already-used Exchange systems in place.  All support is handled by Microsoft or a third party, the systems are as automated as possible, and the uptime is nearly 100%.

And this is why Hotmail survives.  And if you’re a college student, you might be using it every day.