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5 websites that once ruled the web

Once we couldn't live without these net brands

The internet generation is stunningly disloyal. Brands mean very little to us and we switch online services without a second thought. We take a look at five websites that, once upon a time, we simply couldn't live without, but now are either no longer with us, or have perhaps seen better days.

3. Hotmail

Hotmail was the first web-based email service and, perhaps surprisingly, is still the best, if total number of users is any measure: It has 364 million users, according to internet market researchers comScore. It pushes Yahoo Mail into second place, and third in the ranking of webmail providers is Google's Gmail.

Nowadays Hotmail is known as Windows Live Hotmail, and has been owned by Microsoft for nearly 14 years. Microsoft tried to lose the Hotmail name in 2005 during one of its many brand juggling exercises, but decided against it when users pointed out that they felt reassured by the name.

I was once a Hotmail user. My old account is probably still there somewhere, although I've long forgotten the log-in details. I wasn't alone. Anybody who was smart and tech-savvy in the late 90s and early 00s realised that web-based email was massively more convenient than using an email client.

Now it's different. My own prejudices come to the fore whenever I receive a message from a Hotmail address: I feel I'm dealing with somebody who knows something about computers, but perhaps not a lot. If they knew more, my twisted logic tells me, they wouldn't be using Hotmail. Instead, they'd be using Gmail, like the rest of us cool kids. But at least they're not stupid enough to use the email address provided by their ISP, which makes as much sense as accepting free samples from a drug dealer.

I'm always left wondering why anybody would want to use Hotmail. The ads are intrusive and annoying. It took until June for them to finally remove the annoying tagline ads that were added to every single email sent through the service. The interface is clunky and slow, and the whole shebang is tied into Windows Live (previously known as MSN/Passport), Microsoft's also-ran attempt to keep-up with Google. Unsurprisingly, this is rather biased towards those who use Windows computers. At one point Linux users were locked out of Hotmail and were only allowed read-only access.

Hotmail's failing was that, once upon a time, it was pioneering and clever, but then fell into a period of stagnation. It took the launch of Gmail to provide a kick up the derrière so that significant improvements were made. But by that point it was too late. Hotmail was having to catch up.

I don't know about you but I'm always left with a sour taste in the mouth when a service I use improves only when its competitors force it to do so. That doesn't seem the right way to treat customers.

NEXT PAGE: Slashdot

  1. We couldn't live without these sites
  2. MySpace
  3. Hotmail
  4. Slashdot
  5. AltaVista


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