Hotmail has forever changed Microsoft and the whole world of email like?

Around this time 20 years ago, on December 29, 1997, Bill Gates gave Microsoft a $ 450 million gift - a service called Hotmail. With this deal, the value of buying one of the largest Internet startups at that time, Microsoft set foot in the pristine world of web-based email services.

Originally launched in 1996 by Jack Smith and Sabeer Bhatia as the HoTMaiL (the only HTML baking microwave , the language of the World Wide Web), Hotmail was originally included in Microsoft's MSN service. There have been mistakes. Much money is spent. Brand name changed. Spam is becoming more and more popular. Multiple email signatures.

Hotmail has forever changed Microsoft and the whole world of email like?

Login screen from the first day of Hotmail login

But many years later desktop , Hotmail has a guide for many web-based email services, open the era of using free email services. As a result, Hotmail made Windows changes (especially creating Windows Server later on) and laid the foundation for Windows into the data center. Email service has become the first step of Microsoft that later became the Azure cloud service.

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Former Microsoft chief executive Marco DeMello, now the CEO of PSafe Technology, is tasked with managing the inclusion of Hotmail in MSN, which manages the MSN program - Microsoft's response to America. Online.

In an interview with Ars, DeMello became the director of Windows security and product management before leaving Microsoft in 2006, recalling immediately after being hired to manage MSN in October 1996. He was called up to Redmond to meet Bill Gates. "He assigned our team the task of finding and creating a free web-based email system for the world."

You have mail In 1996, the Web is not yet popular. Most personal Internet access is through dial-up services such as AOL, MSN, CompuServe and EarthLink.Only a few lucky people have "high speed" Internet access via ISDN connections, but many companies do not even connect their corporate email systems to the Internet.

Although there are some webmail services from ISPs that integrate with hosted accounts on the Web, and Lotus also has a Web interface sent to cc: Mail in 1994, Hotmail and its rival Rocketmail (later became Yahoo Mail) are still The first ones offer free web mail service and make money by advertising.

By 1997, Hotmail had 9 million users.

"I spoke very clearly, and this is obvious," DeMello said, "that we could not create a Web mail service for the time Bill wanted." Buying an existing service is the only solution, but it's hardly being used by Microsoft executives because they often think of "homegrown" technology.

But finally, "Bill also signed a $ 450 million cash check," DeMello said. "And I'm responsible for putting it in Microsoft."

There is a complex task involved in bringing software running on Unix - combining free front-end FreeBSD servers and Sun Solaris on the SPARC back-end - into the box. The Windows field and put that service into the Windows server.

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Windows NT Server did not do that in 1997. While DeMello's team developed an interface for the Windows environment that fits with Hotmail, "we are Windows Server customers," he said, "and we not fun at all ".

Despite the pressure to bring code to Windows, DeMello said, "There are a lot of things we have to do - from security to memory management to the TCP stack - which we're still comparing - that's what we do. I get from Unix, from NT and that's why we can not transfer data yet. "

Hotmail's web-based architecture before moving the front-end to Windows 2000

When Sun's CEO Scott McNealy often taunted Microsoft's server operating system, the answer was "no" like rubbing salt in the wound to Microsoft executives. . To change that it took 3 years and developed more Windows 2000 Server. DeMello's team "worked with [Dave] Cutler's (Windows NT Architects) team at the time," he said "the first is in terms of size - the Internet Information Server - network overlays, TCP overlays, and memory. management - and security when accessing folders on the device from the execution process. Finally, Cutler and his team succeed. "

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The Microsoft server development team and Hotmail have collaborated for years, especially when developing IIS, elements of Windows Internet and Web services. "We have builds used to test IIS - Hotmail is always available for testing," DeMello said. "If you pass the test with Hotmail then you can release it - it's a very stressful test. IIS ".

Running Hotmail brings Microsoft a true "homegrown" experience, managing a global web service - the experience that DeMello believes is exactly the way Microsoft operates the Azure Cloud today. "It's like the bottomless tank of what to do and what not to do, how good, how effective and how not," he said, "from small things like response time to posting. Enters into the processing of large amounts of data sharing. "

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Having switched to the Windows Web server before, Hotmail's backend system - the database and storage server - was supposed to migrate to Windows Server and SQL Server in 2004. Transfers are also heavier as demand for storage increases, and the speed of transferring accounts from one database to another and data center replication is limited.

Hotmail also leaves its mark on Office - not just's predecessor. Outlook first released just a few weeks after Microsoft acquired Hotmail and the next version - Outlook '98 - had to change to accommodate Hotmail - leading to the protocol battle. "[Outlook] uses the MAPI protocol [the default interface of Exchange]," DeMello said and described MAPI better than TCP / IP, saying that it was "one of the best things ever made, then we must switch to WebDAV. The problem is which protocol will win. "

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Painful experience The transition from Solaris to Windows took three years. Although there were no problems in the process, DeMello said that the "Bill Gates" order was "not to lose a mailbox" and we did. But something happened.

Increase the size of the server to millions of users, ie data centers must handle increasing storage. Storage is not cheap either. "It's a matter of increasing hard drive costs," DeMello said. "Remember, it was 1997 to 2000, and you still have to pay exorbitant price per MB, not GB."

In the summer of 1999, Hotmail leaked the data for the first time. Each account - at which time there are about 50 million accounts - is likely to crash due to a script on the Hotmail server, granting access to any account with a single password "eh". Some said that the bug was accessed two months ago when Microsoft released the patch. Some suggest that Hotmail developers leave the back door.

DeMello did not comment but said that Hotmail has always focused on security and privacy. "We try to protect login information and enforce password policies. We want to tell users in advance that they should protect their passwords and secure email. "

Hotmail uses Secure HTTP (HTTPS) and SSL encryption to protect login information. Microsoft also forces customers to use complex passwords (not too short or too common), but the rest of the service still uses HTTP. "Only when new authentication needs hardware acceleration," DeMello said, "and that's a very high price. You can not run all over SSL. "

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When it comes to greetings Hotmail Google Gmail and Yahoo forced Hotmail to improve and also cause the renaming of the brand. To bring attention to MSN when it launched Windows Vista in 2005, Microsoft renamed many of its services into Windows Live. Hotmail changed to Windows Live Mail. Many users of Hotmail are surprised that they changed to Windows Live Hotmail.

Windows Live sign-in screen in 2005

Along with the name change, Microsoft also rewrote the entire front-end system for Hotmail, previously used code written in C ++ and Solaris Perl. C # and ASP.NET rewrite finally put an end to Unix on Hotmail, and turned it into the protagonist for Microsoft platforms - bringing them into Office 365 and Azure Cloud.

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While it is important for Microsoft to be a test case for many other things, not so much as the role of revenue, Hotmail also has a reputation for being the source of all sorts of problems. Internet.

Hotmail is where people create fake accounts. As the pioneer in HTML email, Hotmail users are the first targets of fake attacks and auto-download attacks. The ability to filter spam messages is weak. That is why Hotmail accounts are blocked and are considered spam, in part because all mails are returned by the inbox.

Noting what Hotmail has done but we have nothing to be merciful when Hotmail has gone. also makes it easy to forget the old days.

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