With yesterday’s release of IE8 RC, I was reminded of an annoyance my partner had when I first installed Google Chrome because she was unable to use her Hotmail (short for the official name Windows Live Hotmail and not to be confused with Windows Live Mail) account properly using the new browser. I checked if the e-mail service – among the most popular webmail services in the world – was working better now that Chrome is a couple of months old, out of beta and – admittedly slowly – taking bits of market share on a daily basis.
Update: Google just got in touch with us to point out that they’ve just released an updated version of Google Chrome which integrates the work-around (see below) inside the browser so that non-techie users would be able to use both Yahoo! Mail and Windows Live Hotmail without any problems “while the Hotmail team works on a proper fix”.
No such luck. Apparently, with Microsoft’s latest upgrade of the Windows Live Mail service, things got really broken, causing users to be unable to write, reply to or forward e-mail messages. Evidently, these are essential functionalities that shouldn’t take a company of that size to fix within a day or two. So why doesn’t it still work after weeks and weeks of complaints (see here also) by Google Chrome users who still make use of their old Hotmail accounts for sending and forwarding messages to their friends?
How many engineers and how much time does it really take to fix this?
And yes, there’s a workaround by making Hotmail think you’re using a compatible browser, but no, that’s not an adequate solution. And I don’t believe this is proof that Microsoft is deliberately refraining Chrome users to use Hotmail either, it’s just about making it clear they’re not officially supporting the browser yet.
I asked Microsoft for an official stance on this lingering problem, and they swiftly got back to me, pointing out that Windows Live Mail works properly with a variety of browsers and platforms (good), but not the way it should with Chrome (bad) and that they’re “actively working on making the service compatible with other PC browsers and they’ll let me know when they have more to share” (ugly).
For the record: this isn’t a conspiracy theory. I’m confident Microsoft wants to make Windows Live Hotmail work for Google Chrome users, but my gripe is that they’re dreadfully slow to respond to complaints about a service that’s quite essential to their whole online strategy.
Meanwhile, Gmail is steadily rising and on its way to overtake Windows Live Hotmail.