They changed Windows Live Hotmail and I don’t like what they did.
How can I revert back to the old version?
Windows Live Hotmail made some changes to their user interface last
week, and since many people find my site in reference to Hotmail
issues, I’ve been hearing a lot about it.
More specifically, I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints.
So, I’m going to go off on a bit of a rant here. And it’s not aimed
I think the question I hear the most often when this happens is “Why did they have to change it?”
There are two answers to that:
It doesn’t matter why. They can, and they did. To be extra blunt: get used to it.
They have to.
Yes, they have to. And I’m dead serious about that.
The fact is Hotmail is a business. Yes, free email services provide a service, but it’s not something done out of charity; it needs to fit into a business model that makes sense for whatever company owns and operates the service.
More importantly, it’s a business in competition with some other very serious, very savvy and very strong services. Services like Google Mail and Yahoo present a very serious threat to Hotmail’s dominance in the free email market.
For Hotmail to do nothing, to remain static and unchanging, would be slow virtual suicide.
The folks at Hotmail must keep innovating, they must keep streamlining, they must keep changing the product to keep up with, or stay ahead of, their competition. They really have no choice.
And it’s not just Hotmail. Yahoo Mail also went under a fairly massive change to make their service more competitive with Google Mail. And Google Mail is also periodically adding features and making changes over time.
None of the popular services are static and unchanging. Nor will they ever be … at least not until they’re about to die.
My take-away at this point is simple: if you are averse to change, don’t use free email services. At least stay away from those that are embroiled in such visible head-to-head competition. They’re going to change from time to time. (There are plenty of other reasons to avoid free email services for anything important. This is another.)
If things staying exactly the same is important to you … well, then a lot of today’s technology isn’t really for you. Things do change, no matter what. But when it comes to email, you can at least slow the rate at which you’re forced to change by taking responsibility for your own email in the form of a desktop email client. I know people who’ve been using the same email program, the same version of that email program, for over a decade. They don’t want to change, and they don’t have to; at least not as often.
The next most common complaint is simply not liking the changes that were made. This, in turn, is again most commonly not being able to figure out how to do things in the new interface that people knew how to do in the old.
“Did Microsoft even test this thing with real people?” is a common theme.
Yes they did. Lots of real people.
To quote their FAQ on the change:
We tested with several thousand people around the world and used their feedback to improve the design prior to releasing to all users. We interviewed hundreds of them to hear their opinions, measured their success rate accomplishing common tasks, and surveyed them to see how much they liked the new service compared to the old one. The data from our tests showed that most users found the new Hotmail to be faster, more reliable, and more usable.
Having seen what Microsoft does in the way of usability testing, I believe them. Regardless of what vocal nay-sayer’s might think or say, they do not take this stuff lightly; not at all. They make changes for a reason, and that reason is more often than not because more people found it easier to use.
And I also know that no interface will please everyone. By the nature of what they’re attempting to accomplish, Microsoft aims to please as many people as possible – that’s what’s required to keep the business competitive, after all – but that simple statement implies that not everyone will like it.
And if you’re one of those “not everyone”, the whole change might well look stupid and pointless to you, and it’s probably very, very frustrating.
And yet to many, many others, it really is an improvement.
Time for You To Change?
So my question to you is simply this: if you really don’t like the changes that much, if this really annoys you or pisses you off as much as some of the questions I’m seeing would imply….
Why are you still using Hotmail?
Send a message. Vote with your feet.
If Microsoft really got it wrong, and you represent a sizable chunk of Hotmail users, leaving is the best thing you can do. This is a business, and the success or failure of these changes is measured by the number of users. If that takes a drop because people are leaving due to the change, I can’t think of a stronger message.
Why are you still using Hotmail?
If you really don’t like it that much, find and use something that you do.
As I mentioned earlier, using a desktop client will insulate you from random web based UI changes. Or perhaps you like the pace and approach of Google’s changes; they certainly seem less massive and more open about what they’re doing. Or perhaps there’s something else entirely. You might not even have to give up the Hotmail email address if their forwarding service works for you (it doesn’t for everyone), or if you use one of the desktop client Hotmail download approaches.
To be clear, I have nothing against Hotmail. Used properly it’s a fine tool for various purposes. And as to the most recent changes, I don’t really have a strong opinion; it’s slightly different, but from my corner at least, quite usable.
But to go all the way back to answer the original question, “How can I get the old Windows Live Hotmail back?” – you can’t. It is what it is, whether you like it or not.
What’s important to realize is that as the customer of any product or service, you ultimately have total control. No, you can’t control how Hotmail works or what it looks like, but you can control what you do.
You can’t change Hotmail, but you can change you.
Hotmail, or whatever service you’re unhappy with, is not your only choice.
If enough people switch to other services maybe they’ll listen maybe they won’t.
But if you’ve taken the time to find something that you like better, you won’t care any more.