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Outlook.com: 400 million active accounts, Hotmail upgrade complete and more features on the way

When we launched the preview of Outlook.com, our goal was to build the best email service in the world, capable of scaling to over a billion active customers. When Outlook.com came out of preview, it was already the fastest growing email service thanks to your support. The last two months have seen the release of a new, modern Outlook.com calendar, a refreshed Outlook.com app for Android devices, two-factor authentication for your account, new international domains for people around the world, and the release of a preview of Skype calling in Outlook.com.

Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ve completed upgrading all Hotmail customers to Outlook.com. Coupled with the growing organic excitement for Outlook.com, this has pushed us to over 400 million active Outlook.com accounts, including 125 million that are accessing email, calendar and contacts on a mobile device using Exchange ActiveSync.  We’re also pleased to announce that we’re adding two new features to Outlook.com: SMTP send, so it’s easier to send mail from different email addresses, and deeper integration with SkyDrive.

Completing the upgrade: migrating 150 petabytes of email in just 6 weeks

When Outlook.com came out of preview in February, it already had more than 60 million active accounts. However, Hotmail was still one of the most widely used services, with over 300 million active accounts. This made the magnitude of the process incredible, maybe even unprecedented. This meant communicating with hundreds of millions of people, upgrading all their mailboxes–equaling more than 150 million gigabytes of data–and making sure that every person’s mail, calendar, contacts, folders, and personal preferences were preserved in the upgrade. Of course, this had to be done with a live site experience that was handling billions of transactions a day.  With your help, we were able to do all of that in just about 6 weeks. We’ve spent the last few weeks ensuring that everything was completed in line with our high quality expectations. 

We’ve been focused throughout the upgrade on ensuring that every customer has a great experience. We’ve been overwhelmed with the response so far, based on the comments we’ve received.  Here are just a few of the verbatim comments that were sent through the in-product feedback tool:

  • “Oh my goshwow!!! This is gorgeous! I didn’t see this coming – this is a very welcome experience. Thanks for the new outlook.com!”
  • “This is awesome. I’d like to say these changes will definitely make me come back and delete my other accounts like google and yahoo! This is much smoother to navigate and transitioning between skydrive and mail is awesome. This is such a big improvement. I have not played with much of the features yet, but thank you thank you. Alias setup was painless and ease of use is bar none. I’d definitely recommend to my friends.”
  • “Wow!! The interface is perfect, modern and feels like Windows 8. I’m really enjoying the new UI approach from Microsoft.”

To underscore the differences between the two services, here’s a screenshot comparing Hotmail to Outlook.com. You can instantly see the difference in the clean new look. The chrome is minimized so your content is front and center, information is organized so that you can easily see what’s most important, large display ads are gone and the entire visual aesthetic is designed to be fast and intuitive. 

 Hotmail inbox

BEFORE: The final look of Hotmail.com

 Outlook.com inbox

AFTER: The modern look of Outlook.com

Of course, whenever a widely-used consumer service makes any substantial change, there will always be some folks that don’t like it, and that shows up in the feedback, too. It’s gratifying in a sense because it means those customers loved the previous set of changes we made. With a communication service that is constantly evolving, we try to strike the right balance between bringing out major improvements and keeping true to what our customers love. Our belief is that as people start using the new experience, they will come to love it even more than they loved Hotmail. We are keenly listening to what our customers have to say, and we’ll make the right set of adjustments to ensure that we make the experience as great as it can be. So to all those providing feedback: thank you and keep it coming. In addition, during the upgrade period we experienced a few service interruptions, and we’ve worked hard to respond quickly to each one. We know you rely on your email and for those who were impacted we apologize and appreciate your continued support.

Here are a few of the most common things we’ve heard about:

  • Do I have to change my email address? No, you will always be able to use your Hotmail address. No need to ever change,
  • Do I need to update settings on your phone or other apps? No, since you keep using your same email address, there is no need to change any settings on your devices.
  • What happens with Hotmail Plus? Your Hotmail Plus account will continue to work with Outlook.com, no need to make any changes. As before, your account never expires and you don’t see any ads.

You can find answers to other frequently asked questions and more on this page

With the upgrade complete we’ve turned our energy and attention to future innovation and to making Outlook.com even better based on your feedback. You’ve seen a number of these updates over the past few weeks, and today, we’re starting to roll out a few more. We’ll be releasing the new SMTP send and SkyDrive integration gradually, so it may take a few weeks before everyone using Outlook.com sees those new features.

Easier to send messages from other email addresses: no more “on behalf of”

You’ve always been able to send and receive email from other accounts using your Outlook.com account. But, in the past, when you sent email from Outlook.com using a different email address (say, because you switched from Gmail and are still using that Gmail address when you reply to folks), the recipients would see the email being sent “on behalf of” that other account. For instance, this could look like this:

We knew this was a pain point for some people, and could be a real problem if you had a hidden alias, e.g. when Bruce Wayne wanted to send email as Batman. So now we’ve made it so that email sent from a different account goes through that account’s SMTP server. That way, the recipient just sees that account’s email address, like this:

This should work for any email provider that provides POP or IMAP access. If you want to take advantage of this feature, in the Options menu , click More mail settings, click Your email accounts, and then scroll down to the section titled Add an email account:

From there, you can add a send-only or a send-and-receive account, and we’ll configure the SMTP server settings as part of that. This new SMTP send capability will be available worldwide in the coming weeks.

Deeper SkyDrive integration: insert files and pictures directly from SkyDrive

There are a number of ways we’ve integrated Outlook.com and SkyDrive: a single Microsoft account for signing in, a shared contact list and set of connected networks, the ability to send large attachments, a shared header, and much more.  Today, we’re excited to release the direct integration of SkyDrive into the Outlook.com compose experience. When you’re sending an email message, you can select files from your SkyDrive and we’ll automatically turn those into the right thumbnails with links that have the right permissions tied to people that receive the email. When you insert pictures from SkyDrive, you automatically get a beautiful photo mail. And it’s easy to edit the message, and add or remove files and pictures right from the new message compose experience.  This new integration is starting to roll out today and will be available worldwide in the coming weeks.

Here’s what that will look like:

 

Thank you and more to come

We want to give a huge “Thank you” to all of you who have supported Hotmail over the years, for some of you, that’s going back as far as 1996.  It has been an amazing journey and we’ve been honored to provide you with a great mail experience for many years. When we launched the original preview of Outlook.com, we knew that we were committing to building the world’s best email with a brand and product experience that spans from consumers all the way to the largest organizations. We’re excited to have you join Outlook.com as we write the next chapter in modern email from Microsoft.

Thank you for all the feedback along the way and everything you did to help make Outlook.com the best and fastest growing personal email out there.  We’re excited to keep hearing from you and there’s a lot more to come.  Welcome to the new Outlook.com and onwards to a billion inboxes!

– Dick Craddock, Group Program Manager, Outlook.com

(This post was updated to clarify that the SMTP send capability would also be rolling out over a period of a few weeks.) 

Join the conversation

68 comments
  1. Thank you. I always wanted to send mail as Batman. Now I can.

  2. These are great features! I can’t wait to use them. It’s a big upgrade to anything else I’ve ever used.

  3. PLEASE let me add an external acct via IMAP! I’d be using Outlook.com as my sole webmail provider, then!

  4. Now your task is to recover the terabyes of mail, contacts, and skydrive you all lost for millions of people during the migration. Not cool, Microsoft.

  5. Insert image into body of text..

    undo send

    please!

  6. Please, give us ability to change pictures of our contacts! And increase number of emails per contact. Having 3 (Personal, Work and Other) is not enough

  7. Is the SMTP fix not working for anyone else? "on behalf of" is still showing up on emails I send out with another address.

  8. I really like the new Outlook and enjoy using it on my Android phone (Note 2), although the text is a bit large. But the SINGLE, WORST issue with Outlook, which sadly has never been addressed or fixed since the hotmail days, is how you can so easily deselect a bunch of selected emails/conversations if you click just outside of a check box.

    So, you tediously selected 10+ messages to delete or whatever, and then the 11th message you barely select outside the check box and POOF! all the messages are now deselected!

    It’s ridiciulous and so frustrating and has been an issue with Hotmail for probably a decade or more and has NEVER been an issue with Gmail. It’s the one thing I hate about Outlook and hope you guys will SOMEDAY SOON address this!!

  9. Is ActiveSync working reliably yet? Last time I wanted to make the switch from Google Apps, I almost immediately came across an omnipresent ‘Too many devices’ error in Outlook 2013. After two days of fighting and frustration, with no real solutions from the Outlook.com team ("it’s still a Preview!"), I had no other option but to come crawling back to Google.
    Now that the Google sync in the Windows 8 Calendar app is gone for good, I’d very much like to switch to Outlook.com, but I need to be 100% certain that it’ll work as expected.

    • @JurajKovac – ActiveSync is working great! There was a bug that hit a small number of people with the initial release of Outlook 2013 that has been fixed, so make sure to get the latest updates.

      • Thanks, Steve! I love what I’m hearing, let’s give it a second try!

  10. All this, and still no way to add pictures to your contacts. I respect the effort it must have taken to move all these users, but wouldn’t it have been wiser to make the product feature-complete before doing so?

    • Gravatar integration would save Microsoft a lot of time in this area.

    • I think the they’re aiming to have Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter profile linking fill-in that gap, but I understand what you mean. I have about a handful of contacts that do not have profile pics because they’re not on any social networks or we’re not friends in those social networks. On mine, that’s about a handful out of 1000+ contacts

  11. i for one really enjoy using my email on outlook.com. for once, a mail service where the spam filter ACTUALLY WORKS. all other email services’ spam filters (especially gmail’s) are a joke!

  12. PLEASE fix Outlook 2013 for supporting send emails from other accounts/aliases like now in the modified web app!!!! PLEEEAASSSSEEEEE!

  13. please add aliases support on Outlook 2013 for Outlook.com/Hotmail.com account…i can’t believe this works in the (poor) windows 8 mail app and not in the full featurerd Outlook mail client.

  14. Outlook Android app hasn’t allowed me to login in for a week now. Android 2.2. Login-> Allow access? -> Yes -> Failed -> Please try again.

    I know my login is correct because I can login from the browser.

    • @Gary – We have a known issue on Android 2.2, a fix is in the works.

  15. Finally! The SMTP Send feature is implemented badly however now it can be hacked so at least we can send e-mail from our custom domains without "on behalf".

    SMTP Send is obviously meant for Gmail switchers and ignores people with Custom Live Domains, but even if you really are switching from Gmail, you can keep your mail forwarding and still send via Gmail’s SMTP servers without downloading mails again from POP.

    1. Create some random empty POP capable mail account that will not receive any mail
    2. In Outlook.com add Send-and-Receive account
    3. Input your desired custom domain e-mail addres and in the POP settings, fill in the account you’ve created in 1. step.
    4. In SMTP settings, unselect "Use the same username and password to send and receive email " and fill your real SMTP credentials to your custom SMTP server (Google Apps, or standard Gmail, or other 3rd party you want to use)
    5. Click Save and on the next screen, let it "put downloaded mail" directly to Inbox.
    6. Finish. Keep mail forwarding from your original account to Outlook.com as it was.

    Now Outlook.com will keep checking the fake step 1. mailbox via POP. It will be always empty so it will not download any new or duplicate messages. But allows you to send mail from Outlook.com via your custom SMTP server which does not add stupid "on behalf" to your messages.

    Remember to have correct SPF/TXT entries in your custom domain’s DNS if you are using it to prevent marking sent mail as a spam etc.

    • @ObscenePanda – That’s a lot of work :) You can just setup an SMTP send only address without jumping through the POP hoops as well. Please note that this isn’t rolled out to all users yet, but is on the way.

      • Hey Steve, im guessing you’re part of the outlook team? Its great to know that being able to enter custom smtp is coming.. though when this feature is complete it would be great if you could send it out to media as with this release so we could also find out about it.

        The recent changes to outlook.com and its offerings are great and most welcome.. though there is one very sore outstanding feature.. not being able to link microsoft accounts when any of them use 2 factor authentication. I have 2 hotmail accounts, and a domain setup though live domains, and none of them can be linked to my main hotmail account the sensible way….

        The technique suggested by @ObscenePanda is the first that provides the real solution I/we want. Good start though!

      • Hi Steve, If I want to add Send-Only accout so I can send via custom smtp server from my custom domain, it tells me I already have that account setup (since my primary MS account name IS that custom domain). So there is either a bug or the feature you#re talking about is not enabled on my account yet… :-)

        • @ObscenePanda – the feature isn’t rolled out to all accounts yet, we’ve updated the blog post to reflect that, it’s coming soon to everyone along with the new SkyDrive integration.

  16. Well done Microsoft – SMTP send is long overdue. How about adding this feature to Send Only accounts?

    • @Zinc666 – When the feature is fully turned on for all users you’ll be able to do just that. Sit tight, it’s coming soon.

  17. Yikes. POP retrieval interval seems really slow. Sending out email via SMTP also seem really slow.

  18. When the different send from addresses allow us to use different signatures, then this will truly be like Gmail. I’m not a GMail fan, but like the idea that I can send using different addresses and have different signatures based on each address.

  19. I cannot see the "Insert" menu as well?

    • It will take some time before the feature rolls out to everyone.

  20. You can’t see it yet because Microsoft stated in the blog post that it may take a few weeks for the skydrive integration to roll out to all accounts.

  21. SMTP send is fine on Outlook.com, but I’m greeted with Sync Issues on Outlook 2010/Connector:
    Sending’ reported error (0×80040126) : ‘The operation cannot be performed because the connection to the server is offline.’

    Outgoing mail is stuck in the Outbox

  22. 1 – Filters are very, very, very simple.
    2 – Some emails never come, and are not classified as SPAM or in trash.
    3 – Delayed send/delete feature is very necessary too.

  23. Is there any chance there will be an upgrade to hidpi icons (@2x images or svg/icon fonts) on Outlook.com? The typography and design is very crisp but the icons really stand out as blurry on a retina display.

  24. No working email access since 22/03/13 and no sign of a resolution from Microsoft…completely useless "upgrade"

  25. My updated version of outlook.com does not look like your screenshot above. There is nothing on the right side after the date column.

  26. Why don’t you enable custom SMTP settings for send-only addresses?

    Also the article is potentially misleading when it says “you can add a send-only or a send-and-receive account, and we’ll configure the SMTP server settings as part of that”. I just removed my “send-and-receive” address set up days ago to replace it with a “send-only” one, only to end up with the following message.

    “It looks like you already added this account. Please check your account info and try again.”

    Now what should I do?

    And don’t point me to the Microsoft Answers forum which is basically a joke. (Seriously, please, someone at Microsoft just take a look at that forum and see what suggestions those those “support engineers” are making!)

    • @Infinicat – The feature isn’t rolled out to everyone quite yet, once it is you’ll be able to enter custom settings for send-only addresses.

  27. One of the feature that is needed is the ability to respond with alias with Windows Phone and also with send-only or a send-and-receive account

  28. Hey Guys from MS: I wanted to switch from Gmail to Outlook.com and use the SMTP feature. However, even though I use the absolutely right credentials, Outlook.com says that it can’t connect to my Email providers SMTP server. (Austria, AON, email.aon.at, port 587, requires TSL)

    Same settings over at Gmail – no problem at all. Please look into this issue, since I really want to switch to Outlook.com!!!!!

    • @dudesofhazzard, we’re taking a look

  29. SPELL CHECK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I need this feature.

  30. Dear Mr. Craddock,

    Could you please ensure that the number of aliases increase from 10 to 15 as it was before?

    Thanks.

  31. Can we save incoming email attachments directly in to skydrive in this new integration ? Attaching files directly from skydrive is good but it would be great if the one can directly save incoming attachments to skydrive without downloading to PC just like Y-mail did with Dropbox recently.

  32. Great that when adding “a send-and-receive account” Outlook.com sends email using the provider’s server (recipient will not see the Outlook address) and you can even specify POP and SMTP server settings. However, when adding “a send-only account” (my email is forwarded to my Outlook.com account), Outlook.com still uses its own server to send emails. Please add the option to use the provider’s server in this case.

    • ronaldt – this is coming, it’s just not out to all accounts yet. Coming soon…

  33. Please consider these improvements for next releases:

    1 – Enable dragging and dropping attachments to and save from messages (when respectively composing and reading mail)
    2 – Regarding Rules (/Sweep): Add “Mark as read” and “Move to Deleted” as options to the available Actions & enable multiple actions per rule instead of only one (for example: Move to specific folder, Flag and Mark as read)
    3 – Reading pane is really convenient, except that after deleting/moving a message the next message is automatically shown and that one gets marked as read. When using the reading pane, automatically marking the next message as read isn’t convenient. Therefore i would like to suggest the following: Add ‘Show a message only after I select it after deleting/moving a message’ (like the already existing option for Reading Pane ‘When you first open your inbox or another folder, set the reading pane to: Show a message only after I select it’)
    4 – Add a Format Painter feature to the ‘toolbar’ of the composing/reply pane
    5 – As SkyDrive.com has pdf viewing capability, pdf files should be viewable from within Outlook.com as well (like pictures Active View). Also make the icon for pdf files consistent with the one for office files (pdf: Open, Download while for Office files it is: Download, View Online)
    6 – The option to toggle between "Reply" and "Reply All" as the default option is convenient, but please add a toggle to switch between reply/reply all/forward *after* having started to reply
    7 – Add ability to save attachments directly to SkyDrive
    8 – Add the following option to Default "From" address (Options > Your email accounts): send from the same address the message was sent to; especially useful when you have added send-only or send-and-receive accounts to your outlook.com acccount. e.g. if I receive email from my work address, when I click reply, the reply should be sent from my work address in this case.
    9 – Multiple (custom) signatures according to the send-as address. E.g. if I want to send email from my outlook.com address, it should use my outlook.com signature. If I send email with my aggregated address, it should use that signature.

  34. Can you enable sending emails from aliasses, “send-and-receive accounts” & “send-only accounts” from within Outlook 2013 & the Outlook apps for Windows Phone and Android

  35. Microsoft continues to make mistake after mistake. First the Windows 8 fiasco, coupled with the failure of Surface. Now it headstrong continues down the same failed path, replacing Hotmail with the now failed Windows 8 Outlook interface. The false claims of user adoption is not believable. Do a search for "I hate Outlook" and you will see reality. The new interface is like an empty barren Google page. If I had wanted that I would have had a Gmail account…which I will never use because I hate its interface. Thanks for ruining a once great interface. I am currently seeking a permanent alternative to both platforms: Google and Microsoft.

  36. Please add the ability to send from different ‘From’ names.

    I have a business (info) account tied to Outlook. I do not want to send email from it with my name. I want to use the company name.

    I’ve been using the same Hotmail account since 1998. I’m loving the new interface and do not agree with anything @jsw454 said.

    • @Steve Gabard – you’ll have the ability to specify a different display name for a send-only address when you add one. As mentioned in the blog post, the functionality is still rolling out to all our users so it may not be available to you just yet

  37. When I attach a file, it would be nice to see the filename.

    Often I attach multiple Excel, Word, or PDF files to an email that are located in different folders. I cannot see the file name and all I see is the icon.

    This should be a simple fix. Most likely an oversight.

  38. how about a ‘send mail at (time.) IE, you want an email to go out at 8:30pm.

    and how about an email notifier that runs in the systray? crappy firefox extensions work maybe 80% of the time….not good enough.

  39. Hate the changes to hotmail/outlook on mobile devices! Can’t select multiple emails to delete, wouldn’t give me the keyboard to type, kept popping up a flagged item, kept flipping out when trying to open a message, kept freezing up & having to refresh–what a pain!!

  40. Can I do the following scenario: Lets say I have a gmail address called test123@gmail.com. I then create a Microsoft Account for that email address, i.e. the Microsoft account is test123@gmail.com. Can I then set everything up such that a) outlook.com uses the gmail smtp server to send emails? b) set up gmail such that is forwards emails to my outlook.com account? Essentially I am asking about a scenario where I don’t have some other Microsoft account to which I want to add the gmail account.

    The reason I want to set it up that way is that I like to have my inbox accounts separated. So, separate inbox, separate sent folder, on my windows phone both emails as separate accounts, in Outlook (the desktop app) separate accounts etc. I would of course MUCH prefer if outlook.com would provide for this scenario a default way: i.e. one Microsoft Account, one address book, one calendar, but separate inbox, sent mail folder etc for different accounts, and then this should go through to how things appear on Outlook 2013 etc.

    • @davidacoder, if you’re asking if you can set the Microsoft Account test123@gmail.com to send mail using Gmail’s SMTP server, the answer is yes. You’ll just need to wait for the updates to make their way to your account

  41. Completely different question: are there plans for Office 365 Connected Accounts to also offer smtp send?

  42. I am using Office 365 at workplace and when I place the mouse pointer on my Outlook Online mailbox name, I am presented with a useful tip that says "1.95 GB of mailbox space used. At 24.75 GB, you won’t be able to send mail". This message was not clear at first read, then after a thought, it became clear that the message tells me that "Once my mailbox is 24.75 GB full, I will not be able to send any email".

    Can the language of this statement be made more obvious so it is clear to the user at first glance? Also, at 24.75, will I be able to "receive" any messages or not? I think that should be mentioned as well.

  43. I can log on and I can see my email list!, what I can not do is delete or access any mail. It keeps saying it does not have contact with the server! not happy at all!

  44. Outlook no longer works on my kindle fire. The list of messages blink in & out several times like it is refreshing itself. Takes forever to finally open a message. Cannot reply to emails on the kindle, it won’t give me the keyboard! Are there some settings I should change? How do I fix this? It’s awful!!!

  45. Is there anyway to "interface" Outlook.com with Office 365 Outlook?

  46. Why during the transition from hotmail to outlook have paid hotmail plus accounts been deleted?

    I signed up to outlook.com preview when the service first launched, linked my hotmail.com to my new outlook email address and started gradually transitioning my contacts to my outlook.com email address.

    April 28 – hotmail email address disappears. Incoming emails started bouncing…this is causing significant inconvenience as I can’t update the email address for the remainder of my less frequently used online accounts from the past 15 years because the passwords are long forgotten and password resets go to the hotmail account that has disappeared.

    What happened?

    • What makes this situation more frustrating to me as a customer is that the subscription is clearly showing against my Microsoft Account…

  47. Concerning the email portion ONLY, what is the difference between Outlook.com and Office 365? I fully understand that Office 365 is essentially cloud based apps and software. I have asked around and the main answer I seem to get is that with Office 365 you can access your email using a cloud or online version of Outlook 2013, while everything else is the same, i.e. anti virus, malware scanning etc.

    Is the back end engine that Outlook.com and Office 365 uses the same engine, or similar software, different engine?

  48. Hi
    Why is it since Outlook took over my Hotmail account I am experiencing continual loss and drop out of the connection?
    All the other tabs/pages I have open are unaffected, so this is an issue that can only be directly linked to Outlook?
    This is very annoying, and I am at the stage where I am considering cancelling my Hotmail/ Outlook account.
    Regards
    John MacDonald

  49. I have wanted smtp for years. Its great to have two factor authentication too. Nice1 guys

  50. I am looking at the date of these posts and since then there has been a revision on Outlook.com that is beyond belief….the change to the GROUPS in People means that there is no easy way to check which group a contact is in without looking in each group that has been created and scrolling down through the large tiled list. Check out the Microsoft Forums to see the problems that people are encountering especially if thy have say 1000 contacts and 50 groups. Moderators simply reply with "this function is no longer available"

    Anyone who works with groups will understand the frustration that this unnecessary change has caused. Unless Microsoft change this so that contacts within groups can be easily accessed I will have no option (as will many others) other than to go to Gmail….a drastic move when our organisations fliers, etc lists our hotmail address.

  51. @Mike – The feature isn’t fully rolled out to all users, once it is you’ll be able to use SMTP send for send only accounts, no need to pull in POP if you don’t want to.

Comments are closed.