The cat’s out of the bag…

Yep, it looks like the articles are starting to roll off the presses, even before any press releases are out from MS Press Pass.  How do they do it? 🙂

Here’s what’s important: we’re not trying to have a “storage war” as some would say, we’re tying to make storage not be “the issue”.  We’re putting in a lot of effort to make sure we have the features users really want and need.  In the rush to announce the storage bump the articles gloss over that we’ll be doing things like improving security by changing the anti virus cleaning to be free for all users (we have had free anti virus scanning for all users for over five years).

I guess the basic thing is this: I want people to know that we love making cool software, we’ll continue to do that.

Related news:

Hotmail sold my e-mail address to spammers!

How often have you heard this?  Perhaps even thought it?  I know I’ve been asked about it more often than I can count and see it crop up on every web board I frequent at some point in time.  The story is always the same…

I signed up for a Hotmail account, never told anyone about the address, only used it a couple times to e-mail friends and within a couple days I was already getting junk e-mail!  Microsoft must have sold my e-mail address to spammers!  How else could you explain them sending me spam when I didn’t tell anyone my new address?

Well, I can tell you with absolute certainty that Microsoft did not sell your e-mail address to anyone.  Junk e-mail is actually so costly to Hotmail that if we were to try to make a business out of selling e-mail addresses to spammers the addresses would be so expensive that spammers couldn’t afford them. 

But if Microsoft didn’t sell my address, and I didn’t tell anyone my address, how did the spammer know to send me junk mail?

The answer is simply: they guessed.  Spammers invest a lot of time in generating software designed to be good at generating possible e-mail addresses.  The software performs what’s called a “dictionary attack” by taking a list of words and names and combines them into every conceivable address.  The word list can include e-mail addresses found in public locations (e.g. if posted to a newsgroup you can bet that will get spam).  After constructing their list the spammers then try to send e-mail to their list of constructed e-mail addresses.  In order to increase their odds, the spammers will identify the largest ISPs to test out their new e-mail lists.  As the world’s largest free e-mail provider (source: Guinness) it’s no wonder spammers hit us hard.  After preening their lists the spammers then change the domain names and start hitting other sites.

Junk E-mail costs Hotmail a lot of money.  In, fact, junk e-mail costs everyone money (estimated cost to businesses last year: $10 billion).  Businesses hate it, consumers hate it, ISPs hate it.  There is no possible way for Hotmail to profit by selling your address, the cost in customer support complaints alone would be enough to sink us.  Add the storage, administration, networking, PR and legal costs to the pile and there isn’t a spammer out there who would be able to afford to buy our list were it for sale.

In short, no, Hotmail didn’t sell your e-mail address.

Out of block space?

When talking to strangers about Hotmail the most frequent complaint tends to be about Spam.  This is often followed by the complaint that their block list is full and they can’t block any more Spammers.

Know what?  The block list is terrible for blocking Spammers.  Know why?  Because each time a Spammer sends out a new piece of junk e-mail they change their address so you can’t easily block them.  The block list does work, but it really just works for that annoying ex-friend who won’t stop sending you the latest e-mail humor (which happened to be the latest e-mail humor three years ago and you’ve already seen it, oh… about a bazillion times).

The best thing you can do to stem the flow of junk is turn on Hotmail’s Junk E-Mail filter.  You won’t stop junk e-mail entirely, but you will slow it down (I’ll tell you later how to totally stop it, but the solution is not for everyone).  To turn on the junk e-mail filter for your Hotmail account you can take one of two paths…

The quick way:

From the Hotmail Home page (the first page you see when you sign in) click on the red “Junk E-Mail folder:” link. 

If you have the Junk E-Mail filter turned off, you’ll get the prompt to turn on the filter.  Set the filter to “Enhanced” then click the OK button. Why is there no “Off” you ask?  Perhaps I’ll get into that some other time. 

The slow way

No, clicking on that one link on the home page is not the only way to access the Junk E-Mail settings.  You’ll find, in fact, that once the filter is on, clicking that link simply drops you into the Junk E-Mail folder.  To turn on the filter in options, or to adjust it at a later date, you need to start by going to options (the link’s at the top right of your Hotmail page).

Make sure you’re on the Mail options page by clicking the “Mail” in the left hand column.

Click Junk E-Mail Protection.

Click Junk E-Mail Filter.

Tired of clicking yet?  Don’t worry, almost done.  Now, just as in the first section, set your filter to Enhanced and click the OK button to save.

So, after going through all that work, what do you get in return? You get a cleaner inbox. Most of the junk that used to be landing there is now landing in your Junk E-Mail folder.  The Junk E-Mail folder will be cleaned out every 7 days or so, keeping your account space from running out due to an influx of Junk E-Mail.  I will tell you: this is not a cure-all.  You’ll still get junk, but it will be much easier to manage.

One final tip: add your friend’s e-mail addresses to your address book to tell Hotmail you always want to get their mail.  Hotmail will rarely (if I say never I’m sure I’ll be proven wrong :)) put mail from a friend in the Junk E-Mail folder.

I’ll be happy to get into more details later… but I think I’ve already tried everyone’s patience enough with 7 pictures in one blog entry. 🙂