The history of Hotmail dates back to the early days of the commercial Internet. Started in 1996, Hotmail offered one of the first free email services in the world, allowing ordinary users to connect with one another through the power of the web.
Considering its long history, little had changed with Hotmail, but big changes are happening now. Microsoft recently rebranded its free email service as Outlook.com, and it is important for email marketers to be aware of the potential impact this change will have on their businesses.
A web app to be used on all devices
One of the key features of the new Outlook.com is its cloud-based approach to email storage. While the old Hotmail was also based on cloud computing, Outlook.com hopes to harness the power of the cloud in new ways.
That means users can have their email with them wherever they go, and view that email on any device they happen to have at the time – from tablet computers and smart phones to traditional laptop and desktop computers.
Microsoft was the first to make this kind of radical change to its email platform, but other suppliers of free email services may well follow suit. Early reviews indicate that the new Outlook.com is a big step forward for free email. Marketers and others who rely on email to run their businesses will need to see what consequences these changes will have on their future campaigns.
Email, Twitter and Facebook all together
The new Outlook.com also has a strong focus on social media, and the service is able to integrate seamlessly with sites like Facebook and Twitter. Users of the newly rebranded Hotmail will be able to see photos of their friends, get status updates and view tweets, all right from their inboxes.
It is still unclear what impact this focus on social media will have on email marketers. Some marketers may want to run a few test social media campaigns aimed at Outlook.com users and gauge their effectiveness.
“Old” rendering engine for Outlook.com
The rendering engine used to display HTML emails in Outlook.com seems to be the same as the one for the existing Windows Live Hotmail. If Microsoft continues to use the same rendering engine, the transition from Hotmail to Outlook should be relatively smooth.
As for images, there are no changes to the way they are displayed in the new Outlook. Images will continue to be blocked by default, except for those that are manually flagged as originating from a trusted senders.
Automatic blocking service
One potential challenge for email marketers is the way unsubscribes are handled in the new Outlook.com. The new service includes an automatic blocking service that could prove troublesome. When Microsoft recognizes a message as an ad, it provides users with a universal unsubscribe button. When users click that button, an automatic unsubscribe request is generated to the retailer. If that unsubscribe notice is ignored, any future messages from that retailer are automatically routed to the trash.
Microsoft has reported that more than a million people signed up for the new Outlook.com during its first day in existence. That means email marketers need to start adopting their strategy to this new email platform as quickly as possible. There do not seem to be a lot of significant differences between the old Hotmail and the new Outlook.com, but it is still important for marketers to get to know the new platform.
The new Outlook.com is already off to a strong start, and many industry experts expect that growth to continue. Reviewers from CNET and elsewhere have praised its clean design, easy availability and social media integration.
Now is the time for smart email marketers to get onboard and start designing their new campaigns for the new world of email.