Over one billion Active Views served; LinkedIn, Netflix, Posterous, and LivingSocial on the way

Over one billion Active Views served; LinkedIn, Netflix, Posterous, and LivingSocial on the way

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In the past, you’ve heard us talking about the many different types of email and how this creates an opportunity for us to transform Hotmail in ways that help you do more right in your inbox. Over 90% of all email contains a link to some deeper content that isn’t being surfaced in the email, and we know from our research that for most of these messages, there are a few common responses – viewing a slideshow, playing the video, checking shipping status, or accepting an invitation. To help solve this problem, we created Active Views – a platform that reinvents email by making your inbox more interactive and helping you get tasks completed.

How it works

Our approach to Active Views is to categorize messages by sender and by content. For each type, we identify the most common things people do when they receive the email, and we work to bring this directly into the inbox. In some cases, we transform the message. For example, we can take a series of photo attachments and turn them into a slideshow. In other cases, we enable the email sender or website to bring their experience right into the inbox. We’ve created a sandboxed environment that allows partners to insert dynamic content that is up to date and interactive with common tasks through the use of JavaScript.

Our first step – photos, videos, documents, and shipping updates

First, we focused on popular types of emails with photos, videos, documents, and shipping notifications (e.g. YouTube, Hulu, Flickr, FedEx) and how we could make common actions easier. For those messages, we fetch the important content from other websites and let you engage with it in an Active View that appears at the top of the message. This lets us take an email with a text URL for a shared video, and instead of just showing dull text, let you watch the video without having to leave your inbox.

Plain text link to Hulu

Hulu video in an Active View

In traditional email with just a text link, the percentage of people clicking through is less than 10%. With Active Views, customers are clicking on the video control in about 25% of all email messages with a video. In fact, we’ve served over one billion Active Views for photos, videos, documents, and shipping notifications.

Next up – invitations, updates, coupons, and ratings

Now that we have a great experience for common attachments and links, we’re taking the next steps with invitations, updates, ratings, and deals. More and more services use email to let their members or customers know when something has happened, and most of these messages have a simple response – accept the invitation, comment on the photo, rate the movie. Now those actions happen right in your inbox, saving clicks and time, thanks to the work of partners like LinkedIn, Posterous, LivingSocial, and Netflix. Here are some more before and after pictures of the Active Views platform at work.

LinkedIn messages become an opportunity to take actions and connect with others without having to leave the inbox:

Static email from LinkedIn

Interactive LinkedIn email

"At LinkedIn, our mission is put the needs of our members first and to create products that help professionals be more productive and successful. Email is one of the many ways our members interact with LinkedIn and now with Hotmail's Active View, we are adding increased functionality and efficiency without ever leaving Hotmail's inbox," said Moses Ting, Design Lead on Communications Products at LinkedIn. "With this interactive email technology, we've eliminated any extra steps normally required for professionals to stay connected via email." You can read more from LinkedIn on their blog.

Posterous is enabling inline commenting directly from an email, and the message is updated when you open it to always show the latest comments.

Static email from Posterous

Interactive Posterous email

"At Posterous, we've always believed the email is the best platform to share content. We're pleased to partner with Hotmail to let users go beyond frictionless posting and, for the first time, interact with their Posterous website in real time from their inbox. It just makes sense,” said Sachin Agarwal, founder and CEO of Posterous. “Rather than relying on your readers to visit your site, they can now read the latest comments or add their own comments directly from their inbox.” You can read more from Posterous on their blog.

LivingSocial deals emails are turning into an opportunity to browse deals in real time, see how much time is remaining, and browse other deals:

Static email from LivingSocial

Interactive email from LivingSocial

“Be it the deal clock or our deal carousel, LivingSocial’s Hotmail members can interact with their Daily Deal in a whole new way,” said Rich Kilmer, vice president of research and development for LivingSocial.

The Active Views platform is an important part of our work to tailor Hotmail to the types of email you get every day. And the best part is that it allows for flexibility for partners while ensuring that you stay in control. We’re excited to see great sites like LivingSocial, Posterous, LinkedIn, Netflix, and others join us in making the experience possible.

Dick Craddock
Group Program Manager, Hotmail

11 Comments
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  • I agree with Tarun Juneja's comment: .........Would love to see the support of viewing PDF in active view in future.In Fact I would love to see it as early as possible as GMAIL already has this.

  • @Ivan L. We'll follow up with you on your issues offline. Thanks.

  • Ivan L.
    1 Posts

    (I'm sorry for leave this post here but I can't find another place to leave my comment.)

    I'm employeed of an ESP where we deal daily within the Windows Live support people and SmartScreen false positives.

    We've found that since finals of 2010, support personnel isn't releasing mitigations anymore... and we found that many of our webmasters, who have been sending emails to their users since two years, now have the problem that SmartScreen is junkinkg their emails without any reason.

    You're supposing that SmartScreen is now enough "smart" to make him self decisions, but it's not true at all and you're causing several damages to many webmasters.

    I'd like you to reconsider your strategy within SmartScreen, you can't be showing bery proud your statistics about SPAM, when this low SPAM rate is at expenses of legal webmasters who want to send legitim emails to their users...

    Regards.

  • PWK
    7 Posts

    It would be nice to see this feature make it's way into Outlook.

  • looks nice, but what about phishing mails? (I always learn people to not click on anything inside their mail because that could lead to websites you don't want to go because of the troubles it will get you in). I am the only one that is concerned about this 'innovation'?

  • Guys, I can notice now windows live mail is not just a emailing application, its a product with lots of great technology integrated. I like facebook, linked in, tweeter, wordpress integration.

    I really love active view technology...i specially like the photo viewer. Thank you, now i don't need to download it all the time to see the larger preview. I can go full screen right there. It is amazing.

    Would love to see the support of viewing PDF in active view in future.

  • How about active views for Marketplace links for windows phone 7 and also MSDN content.

  • w1ngnut
    25 Posts

    This is really interesting. Nice work guys!

  • JohnCz
    204 Posts

    I love what the Live Team & Posterous have done with Active Views, really interesting.  

    The Office365 team needs to take a page from Windows Live and implement Active Views and some other things in their upcoming email web client...especially since it is a paid service.

  • Posterous is nice, but I use Tumblr and I think it would be nice have it available as well.

  • controlz
    145 Posts

    Looks really good! I can't wait to get these emails!