One cannot underestimate the importance of HoTMaiL to the evolution of the web as we know it nowadays. It wasn’t the first free webmail service, but it was certainly the biggest in its day, so big that it was purchased in 1997 by Microsoft, a mere year after it launched.
Nowadays it plays second fiddle to Gmail in popularity, and Microsoft has never really managed to return to the glory days of Hotmail. So it is in a way unsurprising that it has unveiled Outlook.com, a webmail service designed to ultimately replace Hotmail.
Like most of what Microsoft has announced this year, Outlook.com it has a heavy Metro UI influence and is designed to interoperate with Microsoft’s cloud offerings. It allows you to connect your social networks to the client, save attachments to Skydrive and edit office documents without leaving the browser thanks to Office Web apps.
These new features are succinctly explained in the video below, which makes a few digs at competitors, explicitly stating that outlook.com will not scan your email for advertising targeting purposes.
Outlook.com sports a good looking interface, and appears to be a highly powerful webmail client. It has also already been a massive success, with Microsoft tweeting that there have been 1 million signups since last night’s unveiling. Of course, with webmail these numbers are hard to rectify with actual user numbers, as a lot of those signups will be people jumping onto the site in order to reserve the best email addresses.
As to whether it can dent the dominance of gmail in the webmail market, it will be facing an uphill battle. With Google’s webmail now eight years old there are a lot of people whose online presence is intrinsically tied to gmail, and that alone will act as a big barrier to the adoption of Microsoft’s service.
For now you can head over to Outlook.com and either sign in with an existing Microsoft account (formerly known as a Windows Live ID) or choose to sign up for a new address. With a million people so far signing up for new accounts, you’ll probably want to be quick if you want to ensure that you get the email address you want.