Dear Hotmail: What The Hell Happened to You?
Subject: What Happened?
You poor, gentle specimen of archaic technology. Like a creature from another age, you lie frozen in the depths of the Internet, or as you know it, the World Wide Web. What the hell happened to you? If you hadn't fixed the problems you were having with displaying images in the body of emails, AOL would be beating you. AOL. That is pants-down embarrassing. Most other email providers figured out the whole image thing in 2002.
Now this isn't easy for me. We used to be such good friends in college.
You and me at that naked sorority on Halloween.
It seems like yesterday when you were kicking ass, increasing your storage size and showing up on business cards. You asked for user feedback, you pioneered folder-based mail organization, you were the gold standard for free email. But somewhere along the line you stumbled. You got sloppy or you just gave up, and we drifted apart. Now you've been lapped by the technology and features of Gmail. What I'm about to do will likely hurt a little, but it's for your own good. I am going to lay out the worst of your problems because exposing one another's deepest shames is the glue to friendship, and because I want to propose a solution.
For once, a bear fighting a giant squid is not the answer.
Problem 1: Servers
You rely on narcoleptic servers, and quite honestly, this shouldn't even be a problem because all other email providers seemed to have solved it. Even email providers offering instant messaging capabilities, a feature you're just now looking into, crash less often than you, while being used more frequently. Your servers go down more often than a prostitute who just gave up turning tricks for a better life and then tragically suffered a stroke causing her to fall down a lot.
Candy, enjoying her new life from the bottom of a stairwell.
Problem 2: Security
Remember when we were all sophomores and Rob hacked into everyone's email accounts and registered with hundreds of fetish porn sites and then we were inundated with amputee erotica and we thought it was a pretty good prank but then Rob ended up leaving school for that sex addict rehabilitation center in Oregon? I think we all learned a valuable lesson that year: Your security was terrible. Rob was not a genius; his crowning achievement of technological wizardry was memorizing cheat codes for SimAnt. He hacked into our email just by testing the password "eh" and it worked... on every account. You were responsible for what is still considered, the most widespread security incident in the history of the Web.
The only amputee erotica picture I kept.
Problem 3: Spam
Your spam filters are lazy. The open door policy you allow for junk mail is absurd. I get eight emails a day offering to make me a registered nurse in only six weeks. And just so we're on the same page, Hotmail, I would be a terrible goddamn nurse; I don't like blood, old people or florescent lighting. Also, I'm pretty sure an RN needs at least three years of schooling.
A finger painting I did of nurses getting schooled.
And these are just the three most egregious of your problems, but I have a solution that requires fixing none of them. There is a simple way for you to become a popular and usable Internet provider again with only some careful re-branding, and an honest look at yourself. I would have written this suggestion to your technical support but you don't have one. In fact, you might be the only email service without its own easily accessible email account. You are rich with disappointment.
Rather than try to catch up with Yahoo! Mail, Gmail and... ugh, AOL, you need to redefine the expectations of your users. Don't hide your flaws, use them to your advantage. You can be:
Hotmail: The Garbage Man of the Internet
Unlike real garbage men, you won't encounter dead bodies like this one.
For every site login, item purchased or subscription started online, an email address is pretty much mandatory. Those emails, in turn, make up mailing lists that are responsible for all the newsletters, updates, coupons, reminders and general shit that you currently allow through your spam filters willy-nilly.
You wouldn't know this as a non-sentient being, but spam has made humanity hesitant about registering for anything, and not just on the Internet. I've grown to resent college co-eds wearing matching T-shirts and carrying clipboards in heavily trafficked areas because I know what they want and it isn't "Just to talk." I know they want me to sign a petition to save some trees in, whatever place trees live, but more importantly, to collect my email address and haunt me with bi-weekly guilt for the rest of my life. My point is, spam has made me hate college girls, that's how bad it's gotten.
Not you Sigma Theta Delta. I will always love your naked sisterhood.
People need an auxiliary email account exactly for this reason, and that account might as well be with you. So, you change your image letting everyone know you aren't pretentious, that you are aware of your current standing in the world of email, and then encourage anyone to set up a dummy account for all the garbage they would ordinarily receive after registering for giveaways or choosing a political party. Done. No one's ever checking the account so server crashes don't matter, and you won't need a spam filter or a junk mail folder because they're both obsolete.
"But Soren," you will say. "What about storage? These accounts will flood with junk!" Well, first of all don't raise your voice at me. Second, I've got that covered. Once you've built a solid user-base again and the email accounts start piling up with spam, you blacklist everyone. You shut down every piece of mail that tries to get through your system no matter how legitimate it looks. Why? Because fuck 'em, that's why. You'll be a hero. Users will love your boldness and it will be the first time in Internet history people will purposefully open an email account that doesn't accept emails. WIRED will write articles about you.
Now, you're going to lose any advertisers who currently buy banners on your email pages. That's a necessary sacrifice for heroism. But you have an angle that encourages everyone in the world who already has an email account to open another one with you. Millions of people will trust you with their junk mail, making you a veritable spam landfill, and consequently cleaning out the rest of the Internet for our children and our children's children. Think about it.
P.S. One more image that I know will put a smile on your face. Good luck, Hotmail.
The 1987 Chicago Bulls playing hockey against a tornado.