Microsoft Corp. today announced that more consumers than ever are taking advantage of MSN communications services, with more than 145 million customers worldwide visiting MSN Hotmail® and 110 million customers worldwide logging on to the MSN Messenger instant messaging service each month. The company also announced the availability of a new version of MSN Hotmail that brings key functionality of other Microsoft® and MSN products to customers of the world’s most popular free Web-based e-mail service, including vast improvements for reporting and managing junk e-mail, contact lists and schedules. These changes—including a more consumer-friendly Outlook®-like interface, more integration for customers of MSN Messenger, a new Today page and new contact-management features—come together to make sending, receiving and managing e-mail more convenient than ever with MSN Hotmail.
Hotmail Helps Users Be Part of the Solution to Spam
The new version of MSN Hotmail puts more control into consumers’ hands by adding features that help consumers bypass and report unwanted e-mail. MSN Hotmail uses Microsoft-patented SmartScreen spam-filtering technology, which uses machine-learning technology to not only help protect a customer’s own inbox from junk e-mail, but also help others who use MSN Hotmail. With a single click of an on-screen Report Junk E-Mail button, Hotmail customers can now help Microsoft more effectively root out spam before it gets sent to other customers. To date, Microsoft has used more than 5 million pieces of spam—identified by 200,000 volunteer MSN Hotmail customers in a filter-training program—to define the criteria used by SmartScreen Technology to help block spam. On-going feedback from MSN Hotmail volunteers helps ensure that the SmartScreen Technology is continually trained and improved.
“The new MSN Hotmail provides consumers with a wealth of tools to gain control over their e-mail, calendar and contacts. With Microsoft SmartScreen Technology, people can take an active role in helping block the spam they and others receive,” said Blake Irving, corporate vice president of MSN Communications and Merchant Platforms at Microsoft. “This is just one example of how MSN is providing people with the tools and technologies they need to better manage their e-mail and, ultimately, their time.”
The new version of MSN Hotmail also includes increased protection from viruses that can reach computers through unwanted e-mail attachments. MSN Hotmail now blocks more attachment types than ever and, as always, automatically scans attachments for viruses using McAfee VirusScan.
MSN Hotmail offers several other ways to combat spam:
—Technology from Brightmail Inc. helps defend against spam before it ever reaches customers’ inboxes.
—Three personal e-mail filter levels, including Exclusive block e-mail from senders not included in the customer’s MSN Contacts or designated as safe in the customer’s mailing list.
—Image filtering prevents images in e-mail from automatically opening. Spammers rely on information sent back by such images to locate active e-mail addresses.
—Human Interactive Proof helps ensure that MSN Hotmail accounts are registered to real people, not to the computer programs used by spammers.
As part of its effort to promote greater customer awareness about how to fight spam, MSN has launched MSN Spam Buster, a new education site available in 15 European markets and online at http://www.msn.co.uk/antispamsites/ . Spam Buster features a How to Stop Spam page, which details the ways in which customers can protect their inboxes against spammers; a series of easy-to-follow step-by-step guides for effectively using and activating e-mail filters in MSN Hotmail; and links to regular updates and the latest educational tips on how to help protect against spam.
New Interface Makes Managing E-Mail and Calendar Data More Convenient
The new version of MSN Hotmail offers the most significant redesign of the customer experience since the service’s launch; it will be familiar to people who use Microsoft Office Outlook 2003. The new, more intuitive and consumer-friendly interface makes it easier for people to manage e-mail and keep in touch with friends and family they care about most, using the following features:
—The new default page upon sign-in, called Today, includes an at-a-glance view of the e-mail account that displays e-mail from known senders and contacts only, lists the size of the customer’s e-mail account, and reports the status of the Junk E-Mail folder. The neighboring Mail page provides customers with access to all e-mail.
—New e-mail management icons similar to those found in Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 provide information about incoming e-mail, including whether it has an attachment, requires an urgent response, or comes from someone not listed in the customer’s Contacts or from outside the MSN system.
—Customers can instantly reply to e-mail via MSN Messenger; they are told whether the sender is online and given the option of routing their reply via MSN Messenger.
—Updated Contacts functionality enables consumers to add, import and manage all their contacts, designate favorites, and create groups. Customers can now also share contact information with others by sending it in the industry-standard vCard format.
—The Contacts list can be printed.
Subscribers to MSN Premium communications services, such as MSN 8 or the upcoming MSN Premium and MSN Plus, also can access new integrated calendar features in MSN Hotmail, which enables them to create meetings and appointments and manage tasks from virtually anywhere. Subscribers also can choose to receive via e-mail or their cell phone reminders of meetings listed in their calendar, electronically share their calendar data with others, view the calendars of friends and family, or print out calendars for convenient reference throughout the day.
MSN Messenger Experiences Enthusiastic Worldwide Adoption
The features and conveniences offered by MSN Hotmail aren’t the only components of MSN communications services that keep growing. Phenomenal growth in MSN Messenger usage followed the recent global launch of Messenger 6.0 in July, which provided consumers with personal and fun ways to express themselves and communicate and share online with their friends. By offering innovative communications services that evolve along with the needs of consumers, MSN continues to make more people passionate about MSN products and services. Since the launch of Messenger 6.0, customers have downloaded more than 12 million images from the MSN Messenger Online Group. Several “ilovemessenger” fan sites also were launched in France, Germany and Italy following the launch of Messenger 6.0. The images include custom emoticons, backgrounds and display pictures, as well as more than 600,000 Halloween images that were downloaded on Oct. 31. Also, more than 10 million unique customers of MSN Messenger are using the integrated webcam feature, powered by Logitech, each month, with more than 2.5 million webcam sessions taking place each day.
Both free services, MSN Messenger and MSN Hotmail, are used in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. The new version of MSN Hotmail is part of several new offerings coming from MSN in the coming months.