Thanks to Tech Night Owl Live host Gene Steinberg for alerting me to the fact that Hotmail (officially known as Windows Live Hotmail) is now offering POP3 access for free. That may seem oh-so-twentieth-century, but for the gazillions of Hotmail subscribers, it's a welcome way to read messages sent to Hotmail in a desktop email client like Apple Mail, Microsoft Entourage, Mailsmith, PowerMail, or Eudora. More interestingly, POP3 access to Hotmail lets you combine multiple Webmail accounts (since you could have Gmail pick up email from Hotmail via POP, for instance), or it could let you access Hotmail via your iPhone's or Blackberry's native mail client.
Until recently, POP3 access was limited to paying Hotmail Plus subscribers. But on 14-Jan-09, Microsoft announced the phased rollout of free POP3 access for Hotmail users in the UK, Canada, Australia, France, Japan, Spain, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. Support for POP3 access in the United States and other countries was promised for future phases, but no dates were given.
Gene noticed that POP3 access worked in his U.S.-based Hotmail account, and when I signed up for a Hotmail account and tested it, it worked fine for me as well. It may not be universally available yet, but it's also likely that Microsoft simply hasn't pushed out an announcement. If POP3 access isn't yet available for your account, you can reportedly fool Hotmail into enabling it by changing your country temporarily.
Two notes. I'm sure Microsoft's Web services take an insane level of attack, but the CAPTCHA required to sign up for a Hotmail account is the least readable one I've ever seen. It took me multiple tries to get one I could even guess at correctly. Also, when I configured Apple Mail to pick up mail from Hotmail, it marked as spam the only two messages in the account - the welcome message from Hotmail and a simple test message I'd sent myself. I recommend additional attention to your spam filter while it learns about the kind of mail that comes in through Hotmail.
Although the basics of setting up POP3 access to Hotmail in your email client are easy, be careful when entering the settings. I couldn't connect until I realized I was supposed to use the full Windows Live email address as my user name. The configuration details are:
- Incoming Mail Server: pop3.live.com (Port 995)
- POP SSL Required? Yes
- User Name: Your Windows Live ID, for example, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Password: The password you usually use to sign in to Hotmail or Windows Live
- Outgoing Mail Server: smtp.live.com (Port 25)
- Authentication Required? Yes (use your POP user name and password)
- SSL/TLS Required? Yes
Although Hotmail isn't represented nearly as highly on the TidBITS subscription list as MobileMe (over 7,000 mac.com addresses, only about 150 me.com addresses), Gmail (over 2,700 entries), AOL (over 2,200), EarthLink (over 2,100), Yahoo (1,800), Comcast (1,700), or Road Runner (1,000), we still have over 800 Hotmail subscribers.
Oh, and before you ask, I tried setting up IMAP access and pointing my account at imap.live.com, but no luck.