Redmond, Washington — Software monopolists Microsoft Corp.s Hotmail service, the world’s most-used online email system, suffered an outage that erased e-mail and folders, over New Year’s weekend, which affected more than 17,000 users, but on Monday insisted that the problem has since been resolved.
Microsoft’s online message boards and Twitter were abuzz with complaints Sunday about the Hotmail glitch. The world’s largest software company, which caters to more than 360 million Hotmail users, said it has “restored full email access and recovered content to those who were affected.” Microsoft said on Monday it was still investigating the root cause of the problem, which started four days ago.
“Beginning on Dec 30, we had a problem with Windows Live Hotmail that impacted 17,355 accounts, which caused their sent messages, inbox and folders disappear,” Chris Jones, a Microsoft executive, said in a company blog on Monday. “Customers affected temporarily lost the contents of their mailbox through the course of mailbox load balancing between servers.”
He said Microsoft will take steps to prevent a similar occurrence. “We identified the root cause and restored mail to the affected accounts as of yesterday evening, January 2nd.” “We are very sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused to you, our customers and partners,” he added.
During the weekend, the company’s official support forum was flooded with posts from people who reported that their entire Hotmail accounts were missing. The forum has a number of complaints and screen-shots of postings from users about e-mails that were mysteriously lost or deleted. One user reported getting an error message upon sign-in on December 31 before seeing a “new” Hotmail account welcome message.
For instance, as early as Monday, a user named Muffythemidget mentioned that “everything in the last three months has been erased from my sent box,” that her contacts list disappeared, and that her friends were receiving “adverts about iPods which apparently have been sent from my account.”
But Microsoft spokesperson Catherine Brooker said Monday that Hotmail service and e-mails are restored back to normal, and the outage did not impacted all users — although the company did not disclosed the number of users affected.
Brooker told news media that the cause is still being investigated to ensure the incident is not repeated.
In a posting, the company heartened those who might still be affected to provide detailed information about their trouble on Microsoft’s Windows Live Help site.
Hotmail, the Internet era’s most popular e-mail service, has a reported 360 million users worldwide and has provisioned more than a billion in-boxes. The venerable e-mail service was started July 4, 1996, as a Silicon Valley startup that was one of the first to provide free e-mail.
Originally, it was spelled HoTMaiL, to express that it had an HTML-based interface rather than a specialized interface in a client. In 1997, with millions of customers, it was purchased by Microsoft and merged with another acquisition, a calendar-based service.