I’ve made two observations over the course of the years about email. The first is that email is so ingrained in everyone’s daily lives that we take it for granted. We need an email address to sign-up for social sites, receive bills and receipts, and to communicate and stay in touch. The other observation is that we are always looking for the next big thing when it comes to technology and the internet. Friendster replaced Myspace which Facebook soon replaced. Alta Vista replaced by Yahoo which Google replaced as the number one search website. So it is no surprise that some are all waiting for what will replace email. I suggest we all stop worrying about what will replace email, but who will end up with the greatest and latest webmail service to replace whatever is hot now, which happens to be Gmail at this moment. Microsoft and AOL have recently taken up the challenge of regaining that number one spot.
Today, Microsoft launched a new webmail service called Outlook.com. This is Microsoft’s attempt to oust Gmail as the number one webmail service. The interface and functionality of Outlook.com is almost exactly the same as Hotmail which Microsoft intended. Microsoft’s new Outlook.com webmail service is part of their rebranding of Hotmail. Eventually, all Hotmail users will move to the new, cleaner interface. While Hotmail users can still use their Hotmail.com and Live.com addresses, new users signing up for an email address at Outlook.com will only have the options of an Outlook.com or Live.com domain.
Outlook.com users will still continue to enjoy things like Sweep which allows for scheduled clean up of senders. The junk button is simplified with the only options of junk, report phishing and “my friend’s been hacked!” One item that is noticeably missing from the preview is the unsubscribe function. I understand it will appear in later iterations. Labels and Quickviews, like shipping notifications and social updates, are still present in the new interface.
The consequences for email marketers are not entirely known right now. However, as people switch to Outlook.com, and perceptions of owning a Hotmail.com domain seem old fashioned, marketers will see their Hotmail.com numbers dwindle, and more people changing their addresses. If it is currently not easy to change one’s email address in your preference center, and Hotmail.com comprises a large percentage of your database, it may be wise to revisit that decision. Outlook.com will use SmartScreen for spam and phishing filtering. All of Microsoft’s email products and web products use SmartScreen, including Hotmail, Outlook, Exchange and Internet Explorer. I do not expect too much to vary with how they are currently using reputation and engagement to sort and filter email.
Last week, AOL launched a major revamp of its email service. While Gmail may not be in its crosshairs, they are more concerned about losing even more market share. At a conference last year, the major email providers mentioned that email was the number one referral source for traffic to their other sites. Since AOL is moving more towards being a media company, it makes sense to make their email service more engaging and to steer their users to more of their content. Most users will probably even notice that upon logging into AOL mail, they see AOL Top Stories, as opposed to their inbox. The site does look better than the old, and it differentiates itself from the others by allowing people to send text messages through the webmail client.
What are your thoughts on Microsoft rebranding Hotmail to Outlook? Can AOL stem the loss of subscribers with their new redesign? Leave your comments below and subscribe to our blog to keep up-to-date on any new information we receive about Outlook.com.