Today we are going to talk about an email that everyone has known (and still is working) and that has one of the most interesting growth stories ever seen. Yes, today we talk about Hotmail.
The birth of Hotmail
Hotmail was born in 1995, although it was not until 1996 that it was released and it was the first free email service. A year later, in 1997, Microsoft would acquire this company.
Why did Microsoft buy Hotmail when it was only a year old? Well, the truth is that there are enough reasons. We are going to see some of them throughout the article and I'm sure you understand perfectly why he did it.
But first, let's talk about the Hotmail story.
Hotmail was born by the hand of Jack Smith and Sabeer Bhatia, who had studied together a graduate degree at Stanford University. What they were looking for was a form of communication that could not be seen by the computers of Apple Computer, which is where they worked.
The idea was to create a simple, secure and free email system that could be accessed from any computer through the internet. Yes, it is what we all understand today by email. But it was not like that before. Before, you needed to download software to be able to send and receive emails.
Hence, what these two young men invented between 1995 and 1996 was revolutionary.
But to start the project, they needed $ 300,000, and neither of them had that money. So they looked for investors, and they got Draper Fisher Jurvetson to put the money in exchange for a not inconsiderable 15% of the company.
Months later, when they were a month away from finishing the project, they would be without money. Another investor, Doug Carlisle, offered another $ 100,000, but the founders of this new company (by then they had stopped working at Apple Computers) did not want to lose control of the company, so they gave up that amount and, in instead, they asked for a loan for the same amount.
And, so, a month after that, Hotmail was launched. The chosen date? On July 4, the Independence Day of the United States, precisely, with the idea of symbolizing the freedom of the network against the established power of corporations.
And, in the following months, Bhatia launched one of the biggest disruptions in the marketing field: Viral marketing.
PS: I Love You
What is the viral marketing strategy that? Well, very simple: Each email sent through Hotmail was signed with a line at the end that said: PS: I Love You, and linked to the page where you could create your Hotmail account.
That is, each user advertised the service. And, since the service was free, the people who joined also started using it, and also began to advertise.
This viral promotion, which has since been used by companies such as Dropbox or Facebook, allowed Hotmail to grow in its first year to 9 million users.
At that time, Microsoft bought the company for 400 million dollars. However, he maintained that viral marketing strategy, and that allowed him to reach 30 million active members for 1999. A really spectacular growth.
Of course, Microsoft maintained many of the characteristics of the old Hotmail, but also added some new ones, taking advantage of the muscle that the company already had (not in vain, it was one of the largest in the world at that time).
For example, one of the first steps they took was to translate the service so that it was available throughout the world. It goes without saying that, thanks to this, the growth they obtained was much greater and in less time.
In fact, for a long time, Hotmail was the most used email service.
Currently, Hotmail is Outlook
The changes have been many since Microsoft bought Hotmail. For example, the Hotmail Login Page (also called Hotmail Email Login) is totally different from what it was originally. However, they are minor changes that do not affect the functionality of the email itself.
The important thing is to understand that, although the company has already disappeared, acquired by Outlook (Microsoft), Hotmail emails are still working and, although they all disappeared, they would still be part of the history of the Internet.
At the end of the day, it is not easy to create something from nothing, and Hotmail not only managed to be the most used email from 0 but also created viral marketing. Spectacular!
As you can see, Hotmail grew thanks to a spectacular growth hacking that revolutionized everything that was known until now in the marketing sector and that inaugurated what we now know as viral marketing.