With Microsoft’s announcement this week that Outlook and Outlook Express will no longer support desktop access to Hotmail accounts raises some interesting questions on data portability.
After 30th June, Microsoft’s Windows Live Mail application will be the only means by which desktop and offline access to Hotmail accounts will be supported. This effectively means that a Hotmail user’s messages continue to be imprisoned within a closed ecosphere of services and applications. OK, smart people won’t be using Outlook, Outlook Express or Hotmail, but millions do and many have years of messages archived that they may wish to continue accessing outside a web-based interface.
However, there are some unofficial mechanisms that can not only continue to provide offline and desktop access, but also standards-based access into most email clients
- IzyMail has close to a decade of experience in delivering webmail gateway services. A one-off payment of $17.95 buys a one-year subscription that equips any Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL and Gmail account with a POP and IMAP ‘wrapper’, so users can send, receive and synchronise messages using most desktop clients, such as Thunderbird, Apple Mail and Outlook
- Thunderbird’s WebMail extension plays a similar role to IzyMail, though is of course limited only to Thunderbird and doesn’t necessarily support the various permutations of a service like Hotmail (Live Hotmail, Hotmail Classic etc.) but does support a wider range of services
- Apple Mail fans can use a similar plugin – HTTP Mail – to retrieve Hotmail messages and folder.
Of these solutions, I’d recommend IzyMail’s standards-based approach, freeing the user to employ any both leading mail protocols with the widest range of clients. Indeed, IzyMail saw a huge spike in subscriptions with the launch of the iPhone last Summer as users utilised POP and IMAP webmail gateways to synchronise their email with their phones.