Hotmail Is Dead! Microsoft Outlook Email Services Explained

Microsoft has undergone several product rebrands over the years. They would’ve been good PR moves if the resulting product names weren’t so poorly planned. For example, “Outlook” can now refer to a desktop email client, a web-based email client, and an online email service.

And, if that weren’t perplexing enough, we also have terms like “Hotmail”, “Live Mail”, and “Outlook web app” to worry about. Which terms should you be using? By the end of this article, we will answer all of your Microsoft email questions. Does Hotmail still exist?

Microsoft’s Email Services: Is Hotmail Still Around?

Plenty of kids nowadays will have no idea what you’re talking about when you mention the name “”. After our brief introduction, some younger folks out there might be left wondering: is Hotmail Microsoft? What changed? What is Hotmail now?

Hotmail used to be one of the world’s most recognizable email services. Back in 1997, when Microsoft bought it from its original creators, a Hotmail login offered something unique from most email inboxes: independence from ISPs like America Online (AOL). This version was called MSN Hotmail, but no longer exists.

Fast-forward to 2005. In this year, Microsoft announced a new set of services and products that were designed to extend the user experience on Windows. This new suite was called Windows Live, which you might recognize in products like the now open-source Open Live Writer and Windows Essentials.

As part of this endeavor, Microsoft planned to phase out Hotmail email entirely and replace it with a new mail system called Windows Live Mail. But, when beta testers complained about the change and expressed that they preferred the Hotmail brand, Microsoft dialed things back. The company settled on Windows Live Hotmail.

The Windows Live brand was discontinued in 2012. Some of these services and products were integrated directly into the Windows operating system (in the form of apps for Windows 8 and 10), while others were separated and continued on their own (Windows Live Search became Bing, for example). The rest were simply discontinued.

Around that same time, Microsoft introduced, which was essentially a rebranding of Windows Live Hotmail with an updated user interface and improved features. Many people incorrectly refer to this as Outlook Online, although there is no such thing.

So, with this in mind, is Outlook the same as Hotmail? To add to the confusion, existing Hotmail users were allowed to keep their email addresses, but new users could no longer create Microsoft email accounts with that domain. Instead, they could only create addresses, even though both email accounts used the same email service. is the official name of Microsoft’s email service, which was formerly known as Hotmail and Windows Live Hotmail. Is it Outlook or Hotmail, when all is said and done? That’s a loaded question.

Hotmail vs. Outlook: Microsoft’s Web Email Clients

Back in the day, the website was the web interface for the Hotmail email service. There was no brand mismatch; the services were one and the same. Things just aren’t that simple anymore.

In 2011, one year before Microsoft discontinued its Windows Live brand, they introduced Office 365, a precursor to today’s Microsoft 365. At the time, Office 365 was geared towards business and corporate users, but was gradually expanded to include ordinary users, as well.

As part of Microsoft’s push for Office 365, they released a collection of web apps called “Outlook on the web” (formerly Outlook Web App) in 2015. This suite included four separate tools: Microsoft Outlook Mail, Outlook Calendar, Outlook People, and Outlook Tasks.

The important one is Outlook Mail, which is the modern analog to the Hotmail interface from years ago. Remember how Microsoft rebranded its email service as Outlook Mail is the front-end, while is the back-end.

As with, many people incorrectly refer to Outlook Mail as Outlook Online. Again, there is no such thing as Outlook Online.

To make it abundantly clear: Outlook Mail is the web email client, while is the actual email service that Microsoft provides. You use the former to view the latter with a Microsoft email account. You should choose which is better for you out of Microsoft Outlook’s web vs. desktop app.

Microsoft’s confusing brand strategy has also spilled into their desktop products. For a good, long while, “Outlook” was always referred to as Microsoft’s desktop email client. That term became overly complicated, and the entire Outlook vs. Hotmail upheaval lies at the heart of it all.

Outlook debuted way back on MS-DOS, even before Windows 3.1. It didn’t gain traction until Outlook 97, however, which was packaged as a part of Office 97. With every subsequent version of Office, up to and including Office 2016, the Microsoft Outlook desktop client has also received updates.

This desktop version is sometimes referred to as Office Outlook, but the official name is Microsoft Outlook, or simply Outlook.

Consider the now-defunct Outlook Express, which was an email client that came included with Internet Explorer back in 1996. Despite the similarities in name, Outlook Express wasn’t related to Microsoft Outlook, aside from the fact that it was also an email client.

Microsoft Outlook Express was succeeded by Windows Mail in 2005, around the same time that Windows Vista was released. This was most likely due to infrastructural differences between Windows XP and Windows Vista. Windows Mail couldn’t be used on versions prior to Windows Vista.

Just two years later, in 2007, Windows Mail was succeeded by Windows Live Mail. Remember how Microsoft wanted to rebrand Hotmail as Windows Live Mail? This newly-minted product had nothing to do with that one. Hotmail became Windows Live Hotmail, while Windows Mail became Windows Live Mail.

As of Windows 11, none of the above-mentioned programs are relevant, except for Outlook. The world spins madly on. As if it wasn’t confusing enough, you can use Outlook to boost your workflow as well as stay on top of emails, making the service even more confusing in both what it’s called and what it offers.

Is Hotmail Outlook? A Summary of Microsoft’s Email Products

If you have gotten this far and your head is spinning, you aren’t alone. Microsoft shot itself in the foot with rebrand after rebrand, and it’s almost impossible to keep up, even in retrospect. If you’re still confused, here’s a quick summary of what you need to know:

  • is the current name for Microsoft’s email service, formerly known as
  • Outlook on the web, or OWA, is the Outlook web app that lets you browse your email account. It’s part of the brand’s suite of Microsoft email web apps.
  • Outlook Mail is Microsoft’s desktop email client. It can be used with an email address or with any other email address.

Everything else, including Outlook Express, Windows Mail, and Windows Live Mail, are no longer relevant unless you’re using an outdated version of Windows. It’s no surprise if, by this point, you’re wondering which email service is best out of Gmail and Outlook, perhaps you’re put off by the confusing nature of it.

Are Hotmail and Outlook the Same?

Some questions in life may never be truly answered. The fact that you really only have one of these services to choose from currently does, admittedly, simplify the matter. Hotmail or Outlook, our inboxes work just fine all the same.

What is Hotmail? What is anything at all, when you really get down to it? This journey was an absolute rollercoaster, and we’re glad that we took the time to split these hairs. Rest in pieces,

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