Windows Live Hotmail: The Worst Email Client. Ever.

But 5GB of Space!

I’ve been using online email since the old days. Before you were born, even. Back when nerds knew that “HoTMaiL” was a play on “HTML-based email” and that actually impressed somebody. And it was great to get your email online. Even if you only got 25MB of space; it was plenty ’cause hardly anybody sent pictures or movies as attachments.

But today, checking my old, neglected hotmail account, I was so struck by the stupidity of the new look and feel of Microsoft’s email offering that I had to write it down to get it out of my system.

First, you login. To your email account. It would make sense that you would see your email. But no, Microsoft sends you to an intermediate page full of ads and links to articles about Lindsay Lohan’s drug problems. So another click to get to your messages.

The message list. There’s always lots of spam in there, but a quick way to tell if the sender is actually the person whose name is in the list is to put your mouse over the “from” link. In Gmail, this pops up the actual email sender. In Hotmail, you get nothing.

I get a lot of email, but lots of it is newsletters and stuff that I don’t really need to read right away, but if it stays in my “unread” count, it makes me think I have important mail that I haven’t attended to. So a very standard feature of most email applications is the ability to mark a message as “read” so that you can stop thinking about it. What does Hotmail do? They provide a button that lets you mark a message unread. You read that right. So you can mark a message you already read as having not been read. It’s insane.

The topper? When I clicked on an encouraging link that said, “So, what do you think?” I expected to find a form where I could offer feedback, suggestions, criticisms… you know, the stuff that responsive companies will often PAY their users to get? Instead, I was taken to a splash screen, obviously designed by a marketing department, where I could sign up for the very service I was trying to comment on. And the information about the service was out of date.

This isn’t amateurish, this isn’t poor GUI, this is downright idiotic. It’s almost like Microsoft has given up on their email market, and handed it over to a local high school to run as a for-credit project… no, that’s not right either; high school kids would have done something cooler, and the whole Windows Live project stinks of the kind of lack of direction and focus that can only come from a huge corporation.

But hey, you get 5 GB of storage! What does this huge byte increase do for their competitive edge? Well, if email were an apartment, Windows Live Hotmail would be the “spacious” place in a bad part of town that smells like cat pee. Sure you have floor space, but nobody wants to come visit, and life there is lousy.

OK, I feel better now. Back to my Gmail…

Ed’s Note: FYI, Gmail’s apartment has a skylight. And a hot tub.

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