In a somewhat cynical (IMHO) move, Microsoft is hiding behind security to drop access to its free Hotmail service from Outlook, Outlook Express, and presumably from competing e-mail clients. The service (which uses web based distributed authoring and versioning – WebDAV) will still be available, but users will have to pay for it. To Microsoft’s credit, I believe that AOL and Yahoo! already restrict such access to paid subscribers.
According to the BBC, users who want to use Outlook to pick up their Hotmail messages will have to pay $19.95 (Â£11) for an annual subscription to Hotmail Plus or the $99.95 (Â£55) a year for MSN Premium. Users who are already using the technology to download their messages will be able to carry on using the service for free until April.
MSN say they have decided make the changes because spammers were exploiting the system (do they think spammers will be put off by a $19.95 annual charge?). They have already taken other steps to prevent spammers using Hotmail by limiting the number of outgoing messages on free accounts to 100 per day and introduced extra validation requirements when opening a new account.
The withdrawal of free WebDAV access began on September 27th for new users and will become effective for all users worldwide in 2005.