By Woody Leonhard
Microsoft’s new version of Windows Live Hotmail brings several new features to the online-mail table.
Some of you have written me with tales of woe, cursing the new version and the Windows Live horse it rode in on and begging to get your old Hotmail back. Sorry, you can’t.
All is not doom and gloom. As you’ll see, the new Wave 4 Hotmail does have its redeeming social values. And if you’re still suffering through the changes, there are a few tricks that might make dealing with the newer, shinier version easier.
Hotmail has had a long and bumpy history. Fifteen years ago, Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith left Apple Computer and started a free e-mail service known as HoTMaiL. A year later, with more than a million customers in tow, Microsoft bought the company and renamed the product MSN Hotmail. Hotmail went through a dozen significant changes in the course of several years, with each incarnation promoted as making it “just like Outlook.” Of course, Hotmail isn’t anything like Outlook — not then, not now.
MSN Hotmail also suffered a couple of short-lived name changes, confusing everybody, but ultimately emerged as Windows Live Hotmail in 2009. Wave 4 might be a catchy moniker for Version 4, but it raises the embarrassing question of what happened to versions 1 through 3. I figure Hotmail’s up to version 100+. The various Windows Live components aren’t quite as long in the tooth, but some of them have been through dozens of changes, too. When I ask developers what they think Wave 4 means, the invariable response is, “Go ask marketing.”