Can you believe that it’s been a quarter of a century since the first free web-based email service was released?
When the internet went live in 1991, emails were only known to be used by organizations for their corporate communications and by major universities.
Fast forward five years into the future and Hotmail becomes the first web-based webmail company to offer free email services to the public. The webmail company was originally founded in 1996 by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith. They realized that the internet was becoming extremely popular and that the world was in dire need of a new service that made sending and receiving emails easier.
This required completely rethinking the entire concept of email. Bhatia and Smith spent 12 months creating a working prototype of what would ultimately become Hotmail.
They launched the email service on July 4th, 1996.
Their first marketing call-to-action was announced:
“Happy Independence Day. In return, we are going to give you a great new way to get email. It’s called “Hotmail“. Be free from your internet service provider!”
Their marketing strategy was a viral hit because it allowed consumers to obtain free email accounts that didn’t have to be tied to their ISP providers. Within 18-months, the company was able to grow from zero to twelve million users. Other popular email providers that also launched in the 90s included AOL Mail, Lycos, and Yahoo Mail.
In 1997, the Microsoft Corporation announced their acquisition, the award-winning free web-based e-mail service for $400 million, and changed its name to MSN Hotmail.
Hotmail became an important component of the Microsoft network of online communication and information services. The MSN web portal was a collection of apps and services that included a Hotmail account, MSN messenger, MSN search, and a news site that covered a variety of topic categories from breaking news to online shopping.
By 2002, MSN Hotmail grew to include over 50 million users and over 120,000 employees worldwide. It practically changed the way people interacted with one another as well as the companies they worked for, creating a social connection that helped shape our online lives to what it is today.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most popular questions on the internet surrounding the original email client today.
What is Hotmail?
This question makes me sad because we’re officially in an era where the youth is oblivious to the impact they had on the current landscape of technology.
Hotmail was the first free web-based email service that didn’t require users to have an ISP plan to have an email address. Hotmail email was the first secured email service that allowed users to access their inboxes from anywhere in the world.
Does Hotmail still exist?
Unfortunately no. Back in 2014, Microsoft announced that it would be replacing Hotmail with Outlook.com and migrated hundreds of millions of users over to Outlook.
How did Hotmail change the game?
25 years ago, Hotmail changed the game by offering the first free email service with free storage space, which was massive at that time.
They were a company with a vision and a mission to change the world. They didn’t just make emails more convenient, they offered a great product, a great user experience, a great brand, and a great marketing strategy.
Their goal was simple: create an email service that both enhanced your life and empowered you to succeed in business and beyond and it worked. The world is a better place because of Hotmail. It wasn’t just a product or service that made you more productive, it transcended how we connect.
For those that do remember having an email account, take a moment to celebrate the 25th anniversary.
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CEO and founder of Zemblant Media.