We aren’t surprised that Hotmail’s spam protection is the best in the business

We aren’t surprised that Hotmail’s spam protection is the best in the business

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Hotmail has come a long way in spam protection and is now among the best in the industry in keeping spam out of your inbox. Our own internal metrics, customer feedback, and even a recent third-party report confirms that no mail service offers better protection than Hotmail. You can read all about it in the Gadgetwise column in the New York Times.

Our years of improvements in Hotmail’s SmartScreen technology have led to record low rates of spam in the inbox (SITI), and our customers can tell the difference. We’ve driven SITI down below 3% for a typical Hotmail inbox, and, more importantly, we’ve kept the number there.

Beyond the metrics

Our metrics tell us that we’re doing a good job, and we’re pleased with the progress. But let’s look beyond metrics for a moment. Keeping your inbox clean is about three things, and Hotmail does a great job on all three:

  • Driving true SITI down as low as possible
    We’ve recently lowered true SITI an additional 25% since our last update. We’re getting great results, and we just keep improving.
  • Reducing clutter and graymail
    We automatically identify newsletters and give our customers powerful tools for getting through their Inbox faster, including one-click filters to see only the mail you want.
  • Reduce obvious spam in the Junk folder
    Sure, it’s great to keep spam out of the inbox, but you still need to visit your Junk folder every now and then to make sure you haven’t missed something important. Hotmail not only keeps more spam out of your inbox, it keeps obvious spam out of your Junk folder to make this job easier. In fact, our recent efforts have reduced the size of our customers’ Junk folders by more than 50% - that’s about a half a billion fewer pure spam messages per day.

Our customers can tell the difference

Metrics are great, but what we really care about is hearing from our customers about their own experiences with Hotmail. We have several ways to get customer feedback:

Customer support: Complaints related to spam, including phishing, junk and malware, have dropped by over 40% over the past year.

Direct customer feedback: Hotmail includes a feedback link, which we call “voice of the customer” or VOTC. Our voice of the customer data gives us incredibly valuable feedback and verbatim comments from you on what’s going well and what isn’t. We take this feedback seriously: members of the development team read this feedback every day and spend time categorizing it, finding patterns and trends, and using it to make product improvments. The total number of complaints related to spam has shrunk by over 50% over the past two years. This would be a great result by itself, but it’s even more remarkable when you consider that our overall feedback volume has been steadily increasing.

We’ve seen really spectacular progress in certain areas around spam management. For example, complaints about managing safe and blocked sender lists has dropped to near zero. Questions like “why did my mail end up where it did?” have similarly dropped to near zero. Complaints around “repeat spam” have been cut in half – from 35% down to 17% of complaint volume.

While we’re happy with the results, we know that there are still areas to improve. For example, we still see feedback on phishing attacks.

In-product telemetry: We know that customers who use Hotmail regularly (for example, as their primary email) see lower than average SITI due to our investments in personalization of our spam filtering. Put simply: the more you use Hotmail, the better the experience gets.

An independent study confirms it: no one beats Hotmail

As much as we invest in our own telemetry and instrumentation to understand the spam problem, sometimes it’s nice to get an outside perspective. Cascade Insights gave us just that recently with a comprehensive study of the major email services to see how each performed in the face of incoming spam. We were excited to see an analyst go deep on SPAM and compare the different webmail providers, so we’ve paid Cascade for rights to access and distribute their private report and methodology.

The short story? No one did better than Hotmail. In fact, Hotmail and Gmail were dead even when dealing with spam, and both did much better than other email providers.

The methodology defined by Cascade Insights was straightforward and consistent across email providers. It’s important to note that this was just one study which used a particular methodology, and that your own results may vary. But we’re confident that if you use Hotmail for your primary email, you’ll get the best spam protection in the industry – no one does it better.

Give us a try

If you’re already using Hotmail, we want to hear from you. You can use the Feedback link in Hotmail to let us know about your own spam experience.

If you haven’t tried us out in a while, take a look. If you have a Hotmail account that you haven’t been using, you may see some accumulation of mail you don’t want. Some of it might be old spam, and some might be graymail. (That’s legitimate email that you just don’t want, like newsletters or daily deals you’re no longer interested in. We’ll have more on that subject soon.) We recommend using Sweep to clean up your Inbox, then using Hotmail as your primary email for a while to get the benefit of our improvements, especially what we’ve done with personalization. Once you start using your account again, you should see very little spam on an ongoing basis.

We’re working hard to keep spam out of your inbox, and we hope you like the results. As always, thanks for using Hotmail.

Dick Craddock
Group Program Manager, Hotmail

20 Comments
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  • ebbek
    1 Posts

    Generally I am very happy with hotmail's handling of spam etc.. I occasionally get a spam message in my inbox but most of the spam goes directly to the spam folder - and I do get quite a few spam mails because one of my mail addresses has been published far and wide. This is on purpose, I want that mail address to be known and then I'll deal with spam myself. Hotmail is a great help here.

    But what really annoys me is that I cannot configure Smartscreen to let mail from known good sites through. The last example is the welcome mail from "The Windows Blog". Yes, the mail from this very site is labeled as suspicious in hotmail and there is no way I can change that. I can easily understand the security problems that arise if users were to get access Smartscreen configuration, but it is annoying nonetheless.

  • I've been seeing a spike in SPAM recently.  Here's an example of the what I'm receiving:

    "From: remyjbautexxb@yahoo.com

    To: xxxxxxxxx@hotmail.com

    Subject: terms slam espn

    Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2012 20:35:45 -0400

    tcgdebkxdulwbsanm,

    <!--i6lsfhtzwtc6dres2hsjwogm

    http://goo.gl/eeQ04 choicekslva .themselves}!�xpq7<eachc+european olympic?zmsse:victims everyone?dvrdon

    lhbtexhgmyzqzxyxhxtun"

    I have signed up for nothing new and don't have my email publicly posted anywhere.  I've gotten over 100+ emails like the one above in the past two weeks.  As far as the email address above is concerned > that isn't my email address.  My email address doesn't end in "@hotmail.com."  Maybe the sender is sending these messages to be BCC.  I don't care if the sender is BCC'ing me, I'm still getting A TON more SPAM in recent days than I have ever since using Windows Live Hotmail (<<<<You guys have GOT to do something about that name!).  I can see how an algorithm designed to search for specific terms wouldn't work to catch and prevent delivery of an email like the one above, but it's happening so much that I am just dazed at how to handle this

  • {NOTE: Personally identifying information has been removed from this comment to prevent further abuse of this account. We are following up with this user offline.}

    Name: George Johnson

    Hotmail User Name: ******

    Hotmail Email Address: ******@hotmail.com

    Windows Live Unique ID: ****

    My account has been hacked by ***@yahoo.com.  This hack happened about 45 days ago and I have been able to reset my pass word (about 3 times so far) and continue using Hotmail up until about a week ago.  This last hack job this person did has caused all of my windows and drop down windows in Hotmail to appear in Arabic instead of English.  I can’t log into any of the Hotmail support team help pages or for that matter anything that requires a Windows ID and Password input.  Now I know that this might not be the right form/blog/or for that matter,  person to be telling my sad story to but it is the first time I have been able to at least let somebody at Microsoft know what my problem is.  All of the help Forms that I have tried to use so far require me to use my Windows ID and Password (which needs to be reset) and when I try to reset my password the first drop down window is not English but Arabic.  I am hoping that this Blog – Post Feedback Comment can reach somebody on the Hotmail support team and maybe I can be helped.

    The last resort would be to just cancel my account and delete all of the data that is in my account.

    Thanks in advance for any help at all.

    I can be reached at ***PII removed***,  or I can call Microsoft to talk to someone.

    George Johnson

  • @Langware, we recognize that there's an issue here and we're working on some process changes to better connect our support folks with the teams who are actively addressing any real-time issues with the service.

  • Sometimes important things show up in Spam. What is the point of a Spam folder if you must view it just in case anyway?

  • langware
    154 Posts

    @David Law,

    Yes, I am using the Windows Live Solution Center (WLSC), and have been since 2008. As far as their added value, I find that somewhat limited to "how to" questions.

    With more complex questions, and with reports of Hotmail bugs, I do not find the WLSC adds much value at all. In those cases, all the WLSC can do is respond with something like "Your concern/problem/question had been forwarded to the Hotmail Product Team and they are investigating." There is no way for the customer (or the WLSC) to get current status (on the customer's specific problem) from the Hotmail Product Team. In those cases, the WLSC can do nothing more but repeat "your problem is under investigation" ... and that gets old very quickly.

    Here's an example ... On October 12, 2011 I started a thread on the WLSC that describes a (100% repeatable) bug in Hotmail's interface. You can read that thread here:

    windowslivehelp.com/thread.aspx

    On October 18, 2011, a WLSC moderator (Windows Live Lanie P) responded with "I've reproduce [sic] your concern and it also happened on my end..... this concern already reached our product group and they're now investigating this matter."

    In the four months since I reported this bug, the WLSC moderators have only repeated "The issue is still under investigation" ... it appears that they are unable to obtain any more specific status from the Product Team. I'm sure you can see that after four months, that reply is of no help. Unfortunately, there is no way that your customers can obtain status from the Hotmail Product Team as to whether or not the priority of their problem has even been raised to the point that someone is actively working on a fix.

    So, yes, the WLSC does add value for "how to" questions, but for more complex questions, bug reports, and for real-time status on serious outages, the WLSC is of little help .... in these cases Microsoft needs to find a better way of communicating with customers.

    Thanks for listening!

  • David Law
    11 Posts

    Great feedback and we want to keep getting better here.  Glad to hear your are using (and find value) in the Solution Center.  Definitely know that we are intent on improving all parts of the cycle (namely prevention but also communication, etc.).   Thanks, @langware.

  • langware
    154 Posts

    @David Law,

    Thank you for the link to the explanation of last night's 2 hour and 50 minute outage.

    I applaud these efforts mentioned in the status you referenced:   "The Hotmail team is already making changes so that this kind of break won’t happen again, including changing the process and tools for checking in static content and also changing the way we diagnose live site incidents so that our automated repair systems will detect and repair these kinds of issues."

    One follow-up question/request ... in cases like the one last night (which I will call an extended outage), is there any way for the Windows Live Solution Center's moderators to be kept better informed (of what happened, and estimated time of recovery)? In the case of extended outages, many customers turn to the Windows Live Solution Center .... and the moderators there seem woefully unable to provide any real-time status/help. Even a "sticky" post in the Hotmail forum giving current status of an "extended" outage ... or a link to outage status that has been posted on some other site ... would be greatly appreciated.

    Most customers understand that outages can (and do) occur. It is the lack of useful information during an outage that results in frustrated customers. Can anything be done to improve customer communication during an extended outage?

  • David Law
    11 Posts

    @langware and everyone else – confirmed, there was an issue overnight (Redmond time) for web users.  Mobile phones and others using alternative protocols, like POP3 and EAS, were not affected.  

    We posted the full details here:

    status.live.com/.../72768bc9-c7fe-4be4-8aeb-39e8f9b3770a

    Nothing is more important than the reliability of the service and we apologize to anyone that experienced a problem.

  • langware
    154 Posts

    @Dick Craddock:

    It's been over 12 hours since the Hotmail outage began, and according to https://status.live.com/ ... Hotmail continues to have intermittent problems:

    Summary Feb 15 12:58 PM: Hotmail is having intermittent problems. Some Hotmail features might be slow.

    Status: This incident is active.This incident is active.

    Can you please give your customers some information on the cause of this problem, why it's taking so long to resolve the problem, ans what will be done to prevent similar problems in the future.

  • langware
    154 Posts

    @Dick Craddock,

    The Hotmail outage lasted 2 - 3 hours.

    Improving Hotmail's spam detection is a good thing .... but it is of little use when the service has extended outages.

    Your customers deserve an explanation.

  • langware
    154 Posts

    @Dick Craddock:

    As of 11:41 pm Mountain Time, there appears to be a widespread Hotmail outage (based on the number of complaints on the Windows Live Solution Center). Customers are able to sign on (authentication is OK), but not access Hotmail.

    Can you answer a few questions:

    1. What caused such a wide spread outage?

    2. Why is it taking so long for the problem to be resolved (messages on Windows Live Solution Center indicate that the problem has been going on for at least two hours)?

    3. What will be done to insure that the cause of this outage does not occur in the future.

  • @controlz : Although I use hotmail as my primary email and love it. But I cant still convince myself that it has best design and features. In SPAM protection Hotmail may be the best, but in features and design it is definitely not. Although one thing I would like to appreciate about hotmail is that its design is simplest of all and its preferences are a heck lot easier than Gmail but that does not mean it has best design.

    @wp7critic: ....Second major issue is that the live address book doesn't have unlimited fields for phone numbers. A very useful feature that I have in GMAIL......

    I completely agree with that. This is a major drawback in Hotmail contacts.

  • controlz
    145 Posts

    @wp7critic - I also think that the calendar and contacts websites are in need of an interface update. Calendar needs search, and contacts needs the ability to add more fields (e.g. more email addresses, phone numbers etc.). I have had to create multiple contacts (e.g. Mr Z 1, Mr Z 2) to store just 1 person's email addresses!

  • I have one major issue with the Hotmail and that is contact management on Windows Live. Don't get me wrong I love the auto sync feature that you allow with WP 7.5 but the website interface is terrible. For instance if I go and edit or even view a contacts information and want to back to the main contacts page I have to run through minimum two steps to do that. There isn't a simple button redirecting you back to the contacts homepage. Second major issue is that the live address book doesn't have unlimited fields for phone numbers. A very useful feature that I have in GMAIL. I know you provide us with 3 phone number possibilities, but I have family that travels a lot and unlike Google contacts where I can have multiple phone fields. Another problem I have is the view, it would be awesome to have different viewing options like in Outlook, so we could see basic information for each contact on the home screen.

    What I like about my contacts though is that the universal integration with all the accounts which is awesome and much appreciated. I hope the Windows Live team can update the calendar and contacts website so the UI is much simpler.

  • controlz
    145 Posts

    After using a lot of the main email services (Gmail, Y! Mail, AOL Mail etc.) I've found that Hotmail's got the best features, design and the least spam. That's why Hotmail is my only account - I've deleted all of the others!

  • I regularly get a lot of spam messages in my Hotmail Inbox. I cannot say about other webmails (because I do not use them regularly) but Hotmail still gets spam messages although mostly (99%) they land up in the junk folder automatically. But why such messages come to even Junk folder when I delete them daily? Where's the personalisation as has been said in the blog? Most of them relate to buying ROLEX replica watches or embarassing body part or buying viagra (as @mondayblues said).

    And why mails from Microsoft are treated as suspicious? There is not of scope of improvement in Hotmail regarding Spam and other features as well which have constantly been mentioned by various users on this blog or on other feedback sites.

    One thing I would like to reiterate is that PLZ bring IMAP support to Hotmail. It should support both IMAP and POP

  • Hmmm... in my case it was my Gmail account -- in fact ALL of them -- in which I never, ever found a single spam email.  (Also I've never seen one in my Hushmail, FastMail, or MyOpera mail accounts -- ever !  Or "yet" ?)  

    In Hotmail, OTOH, I had half a dozen spam in it a few days after I opened the account (just a few years ago) and before I even gave anyone the address !  And most of them were the embarrassing body-part kind !  Fortunately, Hotmail *did* deliver most of them properly to the junk folder.  It was rather disappointing at the time, though I admit I had been somewhat spoiled.  I was used to not getting ANY spam !  :-)

    In spite of all this, I recently canceled all my spam-free Google/Gmail accounts (partly because I just like the Hotmail interface better and partly in protest of Google's most recent privacy "issues").  I would much prefer dealing with Hotmail, even though it has its own room for improvements, than with Gmail.  

    Looking forward to seeing what new features/improvements Hotmail has for us in '12 !   :-)

  • The graymail support is a major differentiator between Hotmail and Gmail. Oddly enough, Gmail has turned into my spam bucket while Hotmail is the place where I, "do work".

    Also, I know it's superficial but superficial things matter and I prefer the look and feel of Hotmail over Gmail's. Gmail isn't bad, it's not a dearth of aesthetic like Yahoo, but Hotmail just feels calmer.

  • This is exactly why I love my Hotmail account and hate my gmail account. I get literally hundreds of spam messages in my INBOX each week in my gmail account with over to 800 on average in my spam folder at any given time. (auto deletes after a certain period of time). I haven't had a spam message in my Hotmail account for years!

    Way to go Hotmail Team! You guys are doing great!