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Hotmail now with free POP3 access

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Hotmail has finally moved out of the Age of Stupid and entered the Age of Last Century by allowing free POP3 and SMTP access. It has been available for some time already for Hotmail Plus subscribers, but as Hotmail Plus was a paid service and competitors such as GMail offered free POP3, IMAP and SMTP access it was not widely adopted.

If you're asking yourself what is POP3 how does it relate to my Hotmail and why do I care, then let's break it down.

POP3 is a standard method used by email programs to communicate with email servers. Programs like Pegasus Mail, ThunderBird, Outlook Express, Outlook and most importantly MailWasher, can all communicate with email accounts so long as they support POP3.

Hotmail though used a proprietary system, that is, there were no documented standards on the way it communicated. As a result, to get Hotmail working with a program like MailWasher all those years ago, we had to dig and probe other programs like Outlook Express which did work with Hotmail, and figure it out manually. This took a lot of time...and money...and as a result Nick had to cancel the lease on his Maserati. True story.

But we got there, and in 2003 MailWasher was working with Hotmail accounts using the WebDav protocol, which was the same method used by Outlook Express.

In 2004 Microsoft stopped allowing new Hotmail users access to their accounts using WebDav, old Hotmail accounts still worked, but if new subscribers wanted their Hotmail account to work with programs like MailWasher or Outlook Express they had to sign up for Hotmail Premium. Again a paid service and not widely adopted.

Sadly too, when Microsoft launched Live and any user ‘upgraded’ their free Hotmail account to use the new Live Services, this too disabled WebDav access, even if the account was older than 2004.

In April 2008, Microsoft then announced WebDav support for all Hotmail accounts would end in June 2008, in favour of their new DeltaSync protocol. DeltaSync was proprietary, so again for us to make Hotmail accounts work with MailWasher we would have had to go digging in probing into the back end of Microsoft software. It was at this point we decided we’ve had enough of looking into Microsoft’s back end, and our developers continued to work on more meaningful projects.

In June 2008 Hotmail Plus subscribers could get POP access to their accounts, for a fee.

Clear as mud all that is, and while all this is going on Google Mail (GMail) had launched and was offering free POP3 access for all users.

But now POP3 access is now available to Hotmail users in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, Japan, Spain, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. Microsoft plans to roll out POP3 access to more parts of the world later this year. You can find the settings below:

• POP server: pop3.live.com
• POP server port: 995
• POP SSL required? Yes
• User name: Your Windows Live ID, for example yourname@hotmail.com
• Password: The password you usually use to sign in to Hotmail or Windows Live
• SMTP server: smtp.live.com
• SMTP server port: 25
• SMTP Authentication required? Yes (same as POP3 username and password)
• SMTP SSL required? Yes

More details are here on the Windows Live Mail blog.

If you are not lucky enough to be in a country with POP3 access yet, then you can simply alter your Hotmail account to a country that does, make it go, then move your country back. This is what I did and it worked well for me, here is article on altering your country to the United Kingdom, to allow free POP3 access.

All we need now is Hotmail to move into the Age of 5 Years Ago and allow free IMAP access. Then I can access my Hotmail Spam folder in MailWasher, as unfortunately using this POP3 access you will only see your Inbox messages in MailWasher.

EDIT : The world wide rollout is now complete, so there should be no reason now to change your country to get this working.