MSN Hotmail freezes : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

MSN Hotmail freezes; eShop debuts gift site 2000-12-14 by Cydney Gillis Journal Business Reporter

Hotmail seems like it's on ice this week. As in, just about frozen.

The e-mail service, which Microsoft Corp. owns and has recently started using to provide e-mail accounts to subscribers of its Internet service, MSN, apparently went on the fritz two weeks ago, eventually working so slowly as to make it nearly impossible to access e-mail.

Then, on Sunday night, the service stopped working altogether for one Bellevue resident and local MSN subscriber, who reported the outage to Microsoft yesterday. Since then, Hotmail and its tech support have been a pain, according to Barbara, a technology worker who asked that her full name not be used because her job involves Microsoft.

The Redmond software giant has not confirmed any problems. But, as of yesterday, the Hotmail Web site did not respond to a sign-in attempt by a Journal reporter. One local industry analyst who follows Microsoft said he had this problem as well, though he did get through after many tries.

Since Sunday, Barbara says that's the way it's been for her and a colleague in Chicago who uses Hotmail. Through her MSN account, she says the service has been serving up an endless variety of messages indicating the service is ``temporarily unavailable.''

The ``Catch-22,'' Barbara says, is that Hotmail doesn't have phone-in tech support. You have to e-mail them. Since everything else on her computer was working, she called Microsoft's main phone number to beg for help. The person promised to forward an e-mail from her asking Hotmail to respond to a Yahoo account that Barbara also has.

Hotmail responded promptly yesterday, but the advice made things worse. Barbara says tech support told her to delete her Hotmail account from Outlook Express, which she uses to read and save her e-mail on her own machine (instead of leaving it in cyberspace).

The strange thing is how the e-mail is worded. It makes it sound as if Hotmail, a 4-year-old California company that Microsoft bought in late 1997, is brand new. The following are excerpts of the e-mail, with comments:

* ``Thank you for writing to MSN Hotmail. This service is in beta (or test mode), which means that we're still working to make it even better.'' Barbara says she'll settle for MSN just making it work. Forget the better.

* ``Please be patient during this phase.'' Patient? Barbara scoffs that 48 hours without access is long enough.

* ``(This instruction) should take care of the problem.'' Well, it didn't, she says, so what now?

That's a question Barbara says she's still waiting for an answer to. She replied to Hotmail tech support that their directions failed. That was yesterday. As of last evening, she was still waiting for a response -- though she did manage to log on at one point Tuesday night and finally download her e-mail.

Barbara says the problem could be due to thousands of people downloading Microsoft's MSN Explorer, which debuted in October. The browser software automatically switches MSN subscribers to Hotmail accounts.

That's only a guess, however. Look for official news in this column when Microsoft finally responds. In the meantime, Barbara says she's highly amused that each error message she's gotten this week has come with an illustration of a cute little butterfly-- the symbol of MSN and, to a large extent, Microsoft's continued push into direct-to-consumer markets.

-- Martin Thompson (, December 14, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ