Email in a world of social networking

Email in a world of social networking

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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.

Graphic comparing communication choices

  • 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 15,576,853,555 Microsoft 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!

List of 10 reasons people use email

Frequency of email usage

It’s frequent.

List of statistics about people with multiple email accounts

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.

Chart illustrating how people communicate

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.

Illustration of the percentage of social networking and email contacts overlap

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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  • @Custom Computers - I'm glad you found it interesting!

    @showpal - Thanks for your interest. This info is from a quantitative study run in January 2010. People of all ages were included in the study, without skewing to one group or another.

  • Dick,  I find the data provided in this post very informative! Thank you!

    We IT Pros enjoy having this type of data to offer when we recommend usage of certain services. Many SMB's including myself have fears of all the social networking going on around us as it pertains to security of data.

  • showpal
    1 Posts

    I was wondering if you can provide a more detailed methodology of this study.  What were the ages of the respondents? When were they surveyed, and how?


  • I think you are right, Windows Live Mail has improved a great deal. I wasn't the active user of Live Mail, but after such a great improvement I certainly use Live Mail. I have setup all the features provided, from multiple inbox to feeds. Personally the only things I love for Microsoft are Windows XP, Windows 7 and Live Mail.

  • Yes EMail is also my choice. Windows Live Mail is not my prefered EMail client. Started using Live mail, and started hating it almost immediately. Why:

    I want a choice of having contact, calendars and other info posted and synchronized to Windows Live servers.

    The calendar has less functionality compared to the old Windows calendar. Calendar also has a habit of losing appointments!

    What do I use; Microsoft Outlook........


  • 7flavor
    352 Posts

    Too bad Live Mail will drop XP support although it's still in widespread use. It's old (8.5 years old now) doesn't mean it's obsolete.

  • thljcl
    7 Posts

    To me, email is still the best way of communication in today's world. I do not use email to share pictures. Skydrive and Shutterfly are the ways to go. It's too bad that there is 25GB limit for SkyDrive. This limit prevents me from storing my collection of videos online. Running a personal blog is also a good way to communicate. While email is the way where I communicate with people directly, blog is where the visitors and I can share the thoughts on specific topics I like.