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Hotmail no more: Gmail is now the world’s most used email service

Sorry, Microsoft: The rein of Hotmail is finally over, with the long-lived email service finally being knocked off of the top spot when it comes to the most-used email service on the Internet last month by Google’s Gmail offering.

Originally launched on July 4 1996 as one of the first web-based email services – Its launch was tied to American Independence Day, as the service promoted itself as offering users “freedom” from ISP-based email and email addresses -  Hotmail was purchased a year later by Microsoft for an estimated $400 million, and rebranded as MSN Hotmail (Later becoming “Windows Live Hotmail” in 2006/2007). Despite becoming the butt of many online jokes for its ubiquitous quality and age, Hotmail has been continually revised, upgraded and refined by Microsoft, with the company even going so far as to introduce an “all-new” update a year ago that mimicked many of the features that won users over to Google.

That, sadly, wasn’t enough to allow the service to maintain user dominance. According to a ComScore report for October – first made public by GigaOm – Gmail usage finally rose above that of Hotmail last month worldwide. This isn’t the first time that this shift has been reported; Google quietly boasted about it happening way back in June of this year, in the middle of a blog post about cloud computing when it announced that it had “more than 425 million active users globally.” However, ComScore disagreed with that number more than a little, claiming at the time that it only had 289 million users active worldwide. ComScore Vice President Andrew Lipsman explained the discrepancy by saying that “there are going to be some users that are left out” of its calculations, as it only tracks home and business use, meaning that Internet access via smartphone or other mobile device, or Internet cafe access, would be missing from their figures (Google, when asked about the difference in estimates, commented that it doesn’t comment on third-party numbers).

Now, however, it appears to be official: Gmail is the king of web-based email services even by third-party metrics. This, apparently, is down to a fall in email provider numbers overall, with Gmail’s simply seeing less attrition than either Hotmail or Yahoo and coming out stronger as a result (It’s perhaps worth noting that Microsoft introduced Outlook.com as its Hotmail replacement in July; I wonder whether adding Outlook and Hotmail users together for October would provide Microsoft with overall control of the market?). 

It’s less of a contest when it comes to American email service use, and more of a surprise who wins that particular battle: Yahoo, which has 40.8 percent of the US market, compared with Gmail’s 36.7 percent, or to put that in real numbers, a 7 million user difference between the two (Hotmail languished in far third place, with 18.9 percent of the US market).