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Windows 7: Email in a world of social networking

29 Mar 2010   #1

Email in a world of social networking

On the Windows Live Hotmail team, we spend a lot of time talking to people about email. It’s one of the ways we figure out what people want, what their pain points are, and what we can build that might delight them. Even though we’re the most widely used email service in the world with over 369 million people actively using Hotmail, and have been providing the Hotmail service to consumers since 1997, and even though we work closely with the Microsoft Exchange folks who have been providing email for corporations since 1996 – there’s always more to learn. And things change, so it’s important to keep in touch with the people who use our service so that we’re not operating on past assumptions.

Recently, we surveyed 2,000 people in the US, where nearly 10 million additional people have started to use Hotmail actively over the last year. Our goal was to refresh our understanding of how people use their personal email accounts, particularly in this day of heavy usage of social networks for communications. We surveyed people who use AOL, Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo! Mail – 500 people for each service. Here’s a bit of what they shared with us.

  • You’re still very attached to your personal email accounts. We asked the survey group which communication method they would choose if they were allowed to keep only one to communicate with friends and family. Of the choices – email, texting, IM, or the ability to post to their favorite social network – most people told us they’d choose email over all of the other communication methods and tools.     
  • Email is today’s tool of choice for managing and sharing documents, interacting with businesses, tracking online activities, receiving and responding to social networking alerts, communicating with friends and family, dating, and so on. Your inbox is your job search strategy room, your filing cabinet, your to-do list, and your social center.

  • Email is your online photo album, too. People send and receive over 1.5 billion photos each month on Hotmail alone, and email is still the most popular way to share photos.
  • Email might be the only cloud storage solution you use. People currently keep 15,576,853,555Microsoft Office documents stored on our servers – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. 95% of our storage capacity is taken up not by messages, but by attachments.
Here’s some other data you might find interesting.

Top 10 reasons people use email today

Lots of reasons – people are busy in their inboxes!

Frequency of email usage

It’s frequent.

How people communicate – by email, social networking, or both

The results are pretty balanced although you can see that if it’s a more serious conversation it tends to land in email.

How much do your social network and your email contacts overlap?

On average, the overlap is well under 50% - the majority of people who you’ve befriended or connected with on your social network of choice are not the same contacts that you have in your email address book – and vice versa. Social networking and email are pretty distinct.

These are just a few things that we’ve learned about the ways in which you’re using your email accounts today. We’re learning all the time and applying what we’ve learned to make the product better and better. We’ll share a few more tidbits over the next few days, so stay tuned, and keep using Hotmail!

Dick Craddock
Group Program Manager, Windows Live Hotmail


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 Email in a world of social networking

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