Is Hotmail Yesterday's Baby at Microsoft? No Way

Hotmail, which goes by the moniker Windows Live Hotmail these days, has a long and winding history as a free, web-based email service. Many people have abandoned Hotmail for Gmail and Yahoo Mail, but Windows Live Hotmail is still more of a focal point at Microsoft than you may think, as a new post on the Windows team blog bears out.

When Hotmail was sold to Microsoft in December 1997 for a reported $400 million, it became part of the MSN services, and the software giant stripped it of much of the open-source plumbing that it ran on. When Google delivered Gmail in 2004, it featured far more free storage than users got with Hotmail, Yahoo Mail or AOL Mail accounts, and people continue to migrate to it. But Microsoft has steadily improved Windows Live Hotmail, and it even won PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice award in a roundup of webmail offerings in 2007. Microsoft radically boosted its performance and made a raft of usability improvements in 2008.

This week, Microsoft’s Arthur de Haan, who is responsible for Test and System Engineering in Windows Live, has an informative peek behind the scenes of Windows Live Hotmail, found here. Here are some of the details de Haan supplies on Windows Live Hotmail’s architecture and reach:

  • Hotmail serves 59 regional markets, in 36 languages.
  • Microsoft hosts well over 1.3 billion inboxes. (Some users have multiple inboxes.)
  • More than 350 million people actively use Hotmail on a monthly basis (source: comScore, August 2009).
  • Microsoft handles over 3 billion messages a day and filters out more than 1 billion spam messages — mail that you never see in your inbox.
  • Total Hotmail storage grows at over 2 petabytes a month. (A petabyte is 1,000 terabytes.)
  • Microsoft currently has over 155 petabytes of storage deployed. (Seventy percent of storage is taken up with attachments, typically photos.)
  • Windows Live Hotmail is the largest SQL Server 2008 deployment in the world.

The post from de Haan also notes that distinct Windows Live Hotmail accounts are hosted on various distributed clusters in multiple data centers around the world. Multiple types of redundancy are used to protect against outages.

Yahoo Mail remains the market share leader in webmail, but many people don’t realize that Windows Live Hotmail is No. 2, according to ComScore’s data, with Gmail well behind it in third place. (Gmail is faster growing, though.) Especially as Microsoft moves forward with cloud-based applications and online services, it can leverage the webmail share that it has, and tie Hotmail in with them. Clearly, the company hasn’t thrown in the Hotmail towel.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Niallkennedy.

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