Hotmail introduces interactive email using Active Views

Hotmail introduces interactive email using Active Views

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Starting today, Hotmail and select partners are introducing a new type of interactive and dynamic email that runs on the Hotmail Active Views platform.

Beginning in the late 90s, email services evolved from supporting just plain text and attachments to supporting rich, HTML-based email. This was a big development, and it ushered in an era of structured email templates and embedded photos and links. Today, nearly all messages sent by businesses and websites use HTML.

There are many benefits of this richer format, but also some limitations. One challenge is that the content is static, so when you open the email, the content may already be out of date. Additionally, most of these messages require you to click out of them to the sender’s website in order to complete a key action or take the next step. In some cases, this works just fine, but it can become a hassle, especially if you’re trying to get through your inbox quickly. You might want to check out that online deal, update your account, respond to a friend request, or browse products, but simply don’t because of the extra time it requires. With the average person receiving more than 200 email messages per week (outside of work), the extra time adds up, and our research shows that about 70% of people who use email regularly think that getting through their inbox takes too long.

Like the transition that took us from text to HTML, it’s time for email to evolve again to address today’s challenges, becoming more dynamic so the content is up to date when you open it, and more interactive so you can save time by taking actions from right inside the email itself.

These enhancements haven’t happened before today due to security concerns by email services. There has simply been no way to run JavaScript code within email messages in such a way that it’s isolated and not allowed to do malicious things on your computer. Hotmail is solving this problem with its new Active Views platform, technology that allows senders to run code securely in their email messages. It protects you AND gives you access to information on the sender’s website through forms and inline actions built directly into the email itself. This keeps the content up to date and provides a more engaging and time-saving experience.

Starting this week, Orbitz and Monster.com will be the first partners to pilot this new type of email message for some of their communications. Just booked travel and need a hotel? The new Active View email from Orbitz lets you get started without delay. Want to find a new job? Monster.com’s new email helps you quickly take the first step.

Hotmail Active Views video

In the coming weeks, we will introduce additional pilot partners so that you will be able to take actions more quickly and easily, like managing your Netflix accounts or accepting invitations to connect on LinkedIn, from right inside your inbox. We are also working with top email service providers like Responsys, who are taking advantage of the Active Views platform for their clients, like Orbitz.

"By partnering with Hotmail to offer Active Views for our clients, we're helping to pioneer new email technologies and innovations to give people a more convenient and flexible way to interact with email content and services they prefer."

Aaron Smith, Vice President, Campaign Services, Responsys

With these great partners and many more to come, we will continue to innovate and look for opportunities to help you save time by doing more from Hotmail.

As part of a pilot program beginning today, our partners will be sending these messages on a limited basis, and eventually, they’ll be able to use the Active Views platform to include anyone who has chosen to receive email from them. If you receive an interactive email, let us know what you think.

Dick Craddock
Group Program Manager, Windows Live Hotmail

40 Comments
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  • langware
    154 Posts

    There are two "elephants in the room" that are being ignored!

    Based upon the number of complaints posted daily in the Windows Live Solution Center, these elephants in the room (i.e., strategic problems) are frequent extended outages due to maintenance (often measured in days), and frequent account hijackings.

    What actions will Microsoft be taking in 2011 to significantly reduce the occurrences of these two strategic issues.

    Please do not ignore the "elephants in the room".

  • @Gerry. I'll connect with you shortly.

  • This service sounds great.   We'd like to talk to you about presenting pilot opportunities to some of our Fortune 100 clients.

  • I agree with cfj - crappy passwords are a huge part of all hijacking & security breaks. I used to use"password" for most of my accounts except for banking  etc. Now I create secure passwords and keep track of them using RoboForm2Go on a secure U3 flash drive. I just access the flash drive with the main drive password and the supply another password for RoboForm to automatically fill in my user name and password. When I access a quick link, it automatically takes me to the sign-in page of the web site and fills in my user name and password. I have hundreds of online accounts now protected with secure passwords. The flash drive is 256 bit AES encripted and I have sever encripted backups in case of loss or theft. Best investment I ever made!

    I mention all this because a couple of months ago my ex-girlfriend started complaning that I was sending her junk e-mail with strange web links in them. I replied that I didn't send them, but later I found them in my Hotmail "sent mail" folder. Whoa - somebody did indeed have my account name and password (password - duh!). I changed my password to a secure password (like D7qVp#m6) and all the phoney e-mail activity stopped!

    I also have used Hotmail from it's inception as a Microsoft product. I have gone through many hard to swallow changes, but in the long run I have to say that the online Hotmail and the Windows Live Mail client are great programs! I know it's hard to lose e-mails, especially business e-mails - but if it is important stuff to you - make backups of your e-mails and contacts!

    Something else to remember is that Hotmail is a FREE service - it is not intended to replace secure server private e-mail systems. There is a reason that Windows Exchange Mail Server costs $$$ - it is secure and it works! Please use common sense when using anybodys free online services and remember that they are always in a state of change - trying to create new and exciting products for you to use.

    If I sound like a Microsoft employee, it's because I am an ex-Microsoftie who beta tested and supported networking on Windows NT 3.1, Lan Manager and IBM OS2. in the earily 1990's. I also at one time paid $22.00 an hour to access corporate e-mail. I have been on The Source, GEine, GTEmail, Startext and many others. I have learned a lot of things "not to do" over the years - One of them is not to complain about a free products...

    Thanks for the forum, and your time to read this!

    Happy Computing!!

  • Apologies for the comment removal, but we can and will remove comments that are inappropriate. We are still eager to hear your constructive feedback here, and have followed up with statick77 and other commenters here (as well as those who’ve sought help at http://windowslivehelp.com), to resolve any additional issues you may have encountered. Thanks for your continued patience, and for always letting us know how we can do better.

    -   Antonia Blume

       Inside Windows Live blog editor

  • [This comment has been removed by a moderator.]

  • cfj
    3 Posts

    @langware

    While account hijacks are a big problem, I think it has more to do with user ignorance than anything else. Many use the same password for every site, including Hotmail, so when hackers get a hold of huge tables of users from sites with crap security they can just try to log in to the user's email account with the password in the table. No amount of security can protect against an instrusion where the attacker has the correct credentials.

  • @westcoastborn:

    If you go here (www.windowslivehelp.com/thread.aspx) you'll see many others complaining about the same thing.  (The Windows Live thread is 25 pages long as I write this !)  But if you also go to the last page, you'll see that some people are reporting that MS is slowly getting the situation straightened out and people are finding their accounts are being restored, including their emails.  Apparently, MS finally believed that it was NOT the users' faults but their own. Perhaps you should go there and submit your problem again (as well as your email address -- it will not be shown publicly) and see if they can resolve things for you this time around.

  • I recently discovered all my inbox emails were GONE , as of end of Oct, over 8000 emails ,I have had this address since the start of emailing!!!

    I posted on windowslive support last week only to be told it was an issue with my phone email etc, some setting on my end, nothing they could do about it and here are some things I could do in the future to avoid it....I went to Blackberry support and was told it had NOTHING to do with them, these settings Hotmail support was suggesting DON'T EXIST..........Now I am seeing the problem is widespread, am trying to make comments on others forums and being blocked out!!!!

    THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS!!!!  I HAVE MANY, MANY IMPORTANT EMAILS AND INFORMATION THAT I AM TOLD IS GONE FOREVER!! I RAN MY BUSINESS, LIFE, ETC IN THIS ACCOUNT!!!!

    HOW CAN A COMPANY AS BIG AS MICROSOFT BE GETTING AWAY WITH THIS LACK OF SUPPORT??!!

    THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING WE CAN DO, OR BE DONE!!!!

    THANKS FROM AN OVER 10 YEAR CUSTOMER WHO IS DEVASTATED BY THIS LOSS!!!!

  • I echo the most recent comments. I'm one of hundreds if not thousands of folks that have lost ALL of the emails starting 12/31.  Inbox, sent box, deleted box, folders ALL WIPED OUT.  There has been no response to this from Microsoft as far as I can tell.  This needs to be fixed immediately as it's widespread and affects not only people that use email for personal use but for business use as well.  As big as MS is there should be redundancy and the ability to rollback our emails so that they all come back.

  • Please check these links which explain how many hotmail users are having same issue of lost emails and folders this new year. A gift to remember for life from Microsoft on this new year 2011.

    www.google.com/.../ALeqM5iNT3xDRS_wMkjRVrNAvsxPN1Xz7w

    www.digitaljournal.com/.../302023

    www.facebook.com/home.php

    Here is my brief explanation of the problem... I think it is related to their recent hotmail service update on new year.

    I am using Hotmail as my email service for custom domain (RahulSharma.in) and around Jan 1st 2011, 1:30 AM EST New York, Hotmail started fleshing message that it is under maintenance & I should try to login again after an hour. But WHAT.......... Now its around 2 AM and when I am accessing my hotmail account (rahul@RahulSharma.in) ... all my emails, folders, filters etc gone and I received a welcome message from hotmail saying "Welcome to hotmail". Now my account is like its a brand new one. I HAVEN'T DELETED MY EMAILS, HOTMAIL SYSTEM DID IT. PLEASE I need my emails and all other stuff back, atleast this time. I never knew even a service like hotmail can be so unreliable.

    I am seriously thinking to move my email service from hotmail to google apps for my domain.

    Thanks,

    http://facebook.RahulSharma.in

  • Achtung
    1 Posts

    Achtung                                                                                                                                                        December 31, 2010

    {removed email address}    This morning all my folders were empty. Inbox, Sent, Deleted ,  ALL of them. I had one e-mail, from Hotmail, welcoming me. I've been a hotmail user for ten years, rarely missing a day of using the account. This afternoon my folders have re-appeared BUT I don't have anything new since yesterday. At times the counter shows I have new mail but they don't show up in the inbox page.  This is very frustrating. My problem started like the hundreds of people complaining but has now morphed into something different. Please restore my working account.

    In the meantime, I can't read any incoming mail so I have no way of knowing if you reply to this. Contact me at :

    {removed email address}  Please hide this address as well.

    Happy New Year ??????????????????????????????????????????????????

  • Massive e-mail purges on Hotmail and no public acknowledgement from MS, even after 24 hours. Hope we can expect better in 2011.

  • Big hotmail problem last 24 hours: all email erased - inbox, sent email, folders - everything gone. No acknowledgment from the company. We can send email again but accounts are wiped clean. Responses in Windows Live Solution Center are inadequate. Sample thread:

    www.windowslivehelp.com/thread.aspx

    Can we please get some help and meaningful response please? Thank you.

  • controlz
    145 Posts

    @HeinrichP - it doesn't work with desktop mail apps like Windows Live Mail, and Windows Live Family Safety child accounts don't work with it. That is why.

  • HeinrichP
    18 Posts

    I see you have introduced the full-session SSL encryption but why not as default for all users world-wide?

  • controlz
    145 Posts

    @Sameera - visit www.windowslivehelp.com and tell them the problem there. They have sorted out problems for me in the past. :-)

  • Sameera
    3 Posts

    @controlz:

    Nope, I'm the only user. HTTPS works for my skydrive etc. I can even get temporary HTTPS by typing on the address bar. But cannot make it stick. :(

  • controlz
    145 Posts

    @Sameera - is your account a child managed account in Windows Live Family Safety? If it is, that is the problem.

  • Sameera
    3 Posts

    Hey sorry to be off topic but, I'm at the verge of giving up on Hotmail as I cannot get HTTPS to work :(

    When I set Always Use HTTPS, I get the following error:

    "Your Windows Live ID can't use HTTPS automatically because this feature is not available for your account type."

    I read elsewhere that this is because my account is an @live.com email. When is it going to be available to @live.com users?

  • langware
    154 Posts

    @MondayBlues:

    >Methinks that if such issues have remain unaddressed since 2008, your pleas are likely falling on deaf ears.

    I agree ... customer's pleas do appear to be falling on deaf ears. Unfortunately, some of the most frequent complaints in the Windows Live Solution Center concern strategic/critical issues such as: (A) Hotmail accounts that have been hijacked (and used to send spam) and (B) frequent extended outages due to "maintenance" (outages lasting over 4 hours).

    These strategic issues have been occurring for quite some time. New customer complaints (concerning these issues) are posted almost daily. It would be nice if Microsoft set a 2011 goal to achieve significant reductions in account hijackings and extended outages. But as you said, it appears that customers' complaints about these long standing strategic issues are falling on deaf ears.

  • langware: "Browse the Hotmail forum in the Windows Live Solution Center, look at the problems receiving the most customer complaints and focus on fixing those issues (some of which occur almost daily and have been happening since at least 2008)."

    Methinks that if such issues have remain unaddressed since 2008, your pleas are likely falling on deaf ears.  :-(

  • athan
    1 Posts

    Hi, I'd love to use this for a client of ours in Australia. How would I go about creating a partner connection to test out this service? Thanks

  • langware
    154 Posts

    I agree with the post from winter ... "Before you add so many new features, please solve the old problems first."

    Browse the Hotmail forum in the Windows Live Solution Center, look at the problems receiving the most customer complaints and focus on fixing those issues (some of which occur almost daily and have been happening since at least 2008).

    New Hotmail features are nice, but please solve the old problems first (or at least give equal funding/resources to both new features and fixing old problems).

  • jvd897
    8 Posts

    This sounds like a fantastic feature! Excited to see which partners will sign on to this -- I can see it useful with Facebook, for example -- and I'm hoping it will be available in Windows Live Mail at some point soon.

    On a related note, I noticed that the UI inconsistencies I mentioned in a previous comment (windowsteamblog.com/.../hotmail-office-365-and-now-facebook-betting-on-office-web-apps.aspx) were fixed. Thanks!

  • winter
    15 Posts

    Before you add so many new features, please solve the old problems first. I added one of my other email address as the recovery email, it was automatically added to 'save as another email' list. But I don't want it to be shown there.When I try to remove it, I get this message:

    There's a temporary problem with the service. Please try again. If you continue to get this message, try again later.

    But I have tried several months, it always show up, seems to be a permanant problem, not a temporary one.

  • @Slugsie Can you think of any ways that interactive email might be relevant to the types of mails you receive?

  • Slugsie
    2 Posts

    So, let me get this straight. You're in a web browser, looking at a web page - which just happens to be an email on Live Hotmail. And you find it's too hard to open another page to book your hotel? You're kidding me right?

    Besides, I virtually never use the web page to read my Hotmail, I do it all through Outlook. I suspect that it won't work from there anyway.

  • @Timothy Huber. True that. We've created a number of Active Views of a different types that give users enhanced functionality when receiving UPS, US Post Office, DHL and FedEx shipping numbers in emails. We show provide cool experiences for photo and doc attachments, as well as YouTube, Flickr, SmugMug, Daily Motion, Hulu and Justin.tv links. Those all shipped a little while ago. Give them a try. Email yourself a YouTube link and Flickr link to your Hotmail account and see the content in the Active View on top of the received message. Sure, you can turn off the feature in your options if you don't dig it, but I think you'll find it useful if you haven't seen the feature already. I'm especially liking the shipping previews right now for all my online holiday shopping. I just go to the "Quick View" for Shipping Notifications in the left nav and click on each message to see in the Active View where each package is. Anyway, thanks for the postiive feedback.

  • I'm still in the static mail message mindset; however, getting an email for "Your order has shipped" and having the content of that email dynamically updated with the latest tracking information would be pretty cool.  Oh, wait, it already does something like that...

  • @Custom Computers, Responsys was one of the firms that developed an interactive email on our platform. We expect that there will be many more.

  • The Live team could not meet expectations of the user community so they moved on and an outside consultant/partner was hired as noted here > www.pr-inside.com/responsys-and-microsoft-unveil-new-interactive-r2311557.htm <

    Get a few more few more changes  and partners stirring the pot and all users will move to othe providers we think.

    Windows Live will assuredly become Windows Dead amongst the SMB community.

  • langware
    154 Posts

    I agree with winter. Microsoft needs to make Hotmail a reliable, secure, fast, clean, and stable service.

    In order to accomplish these goals, Microsoft needs to solve several long-standing strategic problems facing Hotmail. Among the strategic problems needing solutions are frequent account hijackings and frequent extended outages due to "maintenance".

    Several tactical changes were made in September to address security (adding "proofs" of ownership), but these are only useful after one's account has been hijacked. We need significant reductions in the frequency of hijackings and the frequency of extended maintenance outages. The Windows Live Solutions Center has daily complaints from customers experiencing problems in these strategic areas. Hijackings and extended outages should not be daily occurrences.

    Competing email services may, or may not, be any better .... but Hotmail should raise above the competition, not be equal to it.

  • winter
    15 Posts

    Yes, you should make Hotmail a reliable, secure, fast, clean, and stable service. If one day, when pople talk about email, they mean hotmail/livemail. Then, you know the service has become part of their life. But unfortunately, it seems that gmail more likely becomes such a service.

  • Hi Folks, glad to see the feedback on this. A few points: 1. For users who don't want to see the dynamic content, they can turn it off in "Options." For these users, they'll be able to see a static version of the mail. 2. Senders of these interactive mails are approved and vetted by Microsoft right now and pass a number of security and validation checks. Also, you can be sure that these mails are only from senders from whom you've chosen to receive them. 3. In the future, we may allow many more interactive email senders, but the abuse problem is something we spent a great deal of time solving for even before any possible broader scale out. 4. We beleive that many users will find a great deal of value in the notion of refreshed content and interactive emails. Early pilots suggest that's the case. Of course, we're evaluating the broader impact of this feature to understand the degree to which users find value in it and what we can do to improve it. We do view this as similar to the transition from static web pages to dynamic onces. We expect that, for many users, they'll want to flag emails that are important to them and check back on them regularly for the latest information. In the examples that are being sent today, if you're planning a trip, you can flag the Orbitz email and come back to it to search for hotels while you're in trip planning mode. If you're searching for new job, you can flag the Monster email and follow up each morning with a quick search to see if there are new jobs avaialble as you're checking your inbox for mails from job prospects. Keep the feedback coming. It's important for us to hear it. Thanks, David

  • controlz
    145 Posts

    A good idea, but I agree with Parrotlover77 - I don't want an email to always change. There should be an option to turn that feature off.

  • bfleury
    1 Posts

    That's great news! There are no reasons email should be different from a webpage. It reminds me of "active channels". Everyone will do it in a few years with a standard technology.

  • langware
    154 Posts

    @Dick Craddock:

    Please excuse me if I am skeptical about all of the security issues (associated with running JavaScript code within email messages) being solved. After all, we Hotmail customers are still waiting for a security break-through from Microsoft that will significantly reduce the number and frequency of Hotmail account hijackings taking place.

    For those Hotmail customers who are concerned about security, will there be an option to disable running JavaScrpt code in Hotmail, or must we continue to use third party tools such as NoScript in Firefox?

  • I'm not too excited about this idea.  The reason I think Google's Wave never took off is because it was too dynamic as a primary communication mechanism.  When I get an email, I don't want to have to worry that the content is going to change if I go back to it later.  Email is a snapshot, like a written letter, to most people and they expect it to stay that way -- at least I do.

    Also, even if you have solved the security problem (which, congratulations, as you say you have), the spam problem concerns me even more.  This system seems ripe for abuse...

  • hdw
    25 Posts

    Nice! Hope you guys keep pushing for more partnerships.