When the web was starting up and I was still using a 14.4kBps line for dial-up I used hotmail as my default web-based email service. Back then it gave out nearly 4MB of storage (wow!), then about 5-6 years later I migrated my email account to Yahoo Mail! as it offered nearly 250MB of storage, finally about 2 years later, I switched to Gmail that offered 2GB of storage, and I haven’t maxed it out since (it’s nearly 7 years of email now).
Google went the way of Apple, instead of supplying mediocre storage Google supplied 2GB and made Gmail accounts invite only, which took a while to get viral but it eventually did. Apple did the same thing when they launched the 20GB ipod back when iriver was offering paltry 128MB.
Storage has long been the defining factor for mail systems, but since I’m no where near my maximum storage limit for Gmail I suspect it’s not as important as it used to be, it’s getting to the point that individuals have more storage space than content to fit that space, web companies love selling unlimited storage packages that people never even use 50% of, that’s a lot of saved money. However, the tables are turning, I no longer use Google because it’s got massive space (everyone has massive space), I use google because I like the interface (the classic version) and because I don’t want to change my email anymore.
Today however, Microsoft improved their Hotmail web interface to include a “my friend is hacked” feature. This allows you to tell Hotmail that your friends account is hacked and Hotmail then aggregates that data across to determine if the account really was hacked. I’m guessing it’ll be easier to retrieve your account if it really was hacked, and probably helps Hotmail with it’s spam protection. The guys over at Mashable also announced that Hotmail may soon be implementing a new service to prevent users from selecting common passwords, looks like Hotmail is beginning to improve it’s service in a far more innovative way. The real question then becomes, would anyone use a stand-alone web mail service that isn’t tied to a social network?