How Hotmail Changed Microsoft

It’s a slow news week for Microsoft as 2017 winds its way into the past and 2018 welcomes us to a blank slate of a new year. Many news sites that cover Microsoft are posting their year-in-review articles, while others are looking forward at what we might see from Office in 2018.

Ars Technica is closing out the year by looking back at Hotmail, the company that would eventually be rebranded as Outlook long after Microsoft acquired it 20 years ago this week. From the article:

Twenty years ago this week—on December 29, 1997— Bill Gates bought Microsoft a $450 million late Christmas present: a Sunnyvale-based outfit called Hotmail. With the buy—the largest all-cash Internet startup purchase of its day—Microsoft plunged into the nascent world of Web-based email.

Originally launched in 1996 by Jack Smith and Sabeer Bhatia as “HoTMaiL” (referencing HTML, the language of the World Wide Web), Hotmail was initially folded into Microsoft’s MSN online service. Mistakes were made. Many dollars were spent. Branding was changed. Spam became legion. Many, many horrendous email signatures were spawned.

But over the years that followed, Hotmail would set the course for all the Web-based email offerings that followed, launching the era of mass-consumer free email services. Along the way, Hotmail drove changes in Windows itself (particularly in what would become Windows Server) that would lay the groundwork for the operating system to make its push into the data center. And the email service would be Microsoft’s first step toward what is now the Azure cloud.

You can read the full article here.