Webmail: Is It Ever Too Late to Switch?

The upcoming Hotmail upgrade looks like it’ll be the first Web-based mail client since Yahoo’s 2005 makeover with enough tangible benefits to make the idea of switching from another service worth contemplating, at least. Which got me to thinking: Do very many people really jump from one Webmail client to another these days?

Hotmail uses technology from TrueSwitch to import mail and contacts, so it should be possible for a Gmail user (for instance) to transition to Hotmail without too much in the way of technical challenges. Or you can use techniques such as POP access or forwarding to get e-mail from your old service into Hotmail without having to give up the old address.

But switching e-mail providers isn’t just about technology. Once you’re comfortable with one service, you can get really comfortable–even if another service offers features you’d benefit from. And the new Hotmail presents a particularly interesting dilemma: It’s got a bunch of worthwhile tools not present in Gmail…but lacks some of Gmail’s handiest features, too, such as one-click archiving of messages.

Then there’s the whole issue of the domain that sits at the end of your e-mail address. There was a time–it was way back in the 1990s–when a Hotmail e-mail address was kind of hip. Today? It’s decidedly downmarket, although perhaps the quality of the new version will help its reputation.

Me, I like the virtues of Web-based mail, but I’m not crazy about tying my online identity to any Webmail company. So for several years, I’ve used an address at harrymccracken.com for personal stuff and one at technologizer.com for work. The first one just gets forwarded to Gmail, so I could simply redirect it to a Hotmail account without much fuss. But my work account takes advantage of Google Apps’ ability to give you Gmail for your own domain–a feature that the more totally consumer-focused Hotmail lack.

And just to complicate matters further, I’ve been spending most of my time lately in the e-mail/social network aggregator Threadsy. Judged purely as an e-mail client, it’s far more basic than Gmail and Hotmail, but I like the way it weaves multiple e-mail accounts, Facebook, and Twitter together.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I remain intrigued by the Hotmail upgrade, but don’t have any immediate plans to pull up stakes and make it my primary e-mail provider.

And here’s a silly little poll:


4 comments

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  1. JimC May 18, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    I voted “Other”. I have changed webmail clients, once. But not because of any of the reasons listed. I dropped my yahoo mail when they announced their plan to start charging for POP3 access. I don’t know that they ever did (start charging) or if they backed down. It didn’t matter to me, I left. I just used my ISP’s mail for several years before finally signing up for gmail sometime in the last year or two.

  2. ReynaldoRiv May 18, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    Google would have to screwup massively for me to switch from their services. Gmail, Reader, Calendar, Chrome, Maps, there is just too much offered with it and I actually have an email address I respect since I got in on the closed beta.

    And besides, there is no way I'm switching to Hotmail. I've already got an @live.com account. Something about having the word "hot" in your email is off-putting.

  3. Tech May 18, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    It’s about time they upgraded hotmail.

  4. Mike J B May 19, 2010 at 8:19 am #

    The problem is that it is more of a hassle to keep switching to the extremely subjective “best” email service than to just wait for whatever I am using to catch up and surpass its competitor. If Gmail retaliates with massive updates, would I have to switch twice?