Here’s a blast from the past! 4 July 1996 – Hotmail Launches on Independence day!
One of the most memorable moments in tech history happened on this day when the world’s first web-based email service launched.
Hotmail (styled after HTML in upper-case), was created by two entrepreneurs, Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith.
They came up with the idea for a free email service in 1995, but couldn’t find any investment to back it. Their mission was simple: to bring you an email service that will give you “freedom from your internet service provider”! Hence why they chose the 4th of July as their launch date.
And indeed, Hotmail signup users had more freedom, as they could access their inbox from anywhere in the world as well as their ISP-based mail.
But shortly after its launch, Hotmail was acquired by Microsoft in 1997 for $400 million.
Tip: See what having a Hotmail account says about you in our revealing article.
At the time, it served 8.5 million subscribers and was running on a successful mixture of FreeBSD and Solaris, both Unix-based systems. Within 2 years, Hotmail was the world’s largest email service with over 30 million active members.
The Microsoft team struggled to make the site all-Windows compatible after the sale. They claimed in 2001 that they had reached their goal of having Hotmail’s DNS functions rely on Windows OS. Days later, they were forced to admit that the UNIX servers were still running the system. In 2002, Hotmail still ran on UNIX OS, and only the front-end was running on Windows 2000 OS.
On November 1, 2005, Microsoft made the decision to phase out the Hotmail brand in favor of the new name, Windows Live Mail. However, when beta-testers were confused by the name change, Microsoft backtracked and decided to keep the name ‘Hotmail’.
Microsoft shut down its Hotmail product in 2013, rebranding it to Outlook.com. They wanted to break from the past and offer an upgraded version of their old product. Now, they offer a service for both business and personal email, in addition to a desktop application.
You can still create a @hotmail.com email address on signup however so it’s not completely dead yet.