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Microsoft ends free Hotmail access from Outlook

Script-happy spammers to blame

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Hotmail users who use Microsoft's Outlook and Outlook Express clients will now have to pay for the privilege. Users must sign up to either a Hotmail Plus account for $19.95 a year or an MSN Premium account, at $99.95 a year to continue accessing the service from their desktop client.

Microsoft cited abuse by spammers as the reason. Because its email clients are scriptable, Microsoft had been grappling with spammers who automated the sign-up and bulk sending processes. Rivals such as Yahoo! also charge a premium for POP3 access to their email services.

This being Microsoft, things aren't straightforward. Just as Outlook uses common email protocols and obfuscates them in dense wrappings of RPC (Remote Procedure Calls), Hotmail shuns POP3 for a Microsoft implementation of WebDAV, a much richer web publishing protocol for which email is just one application. So, apart from a few clever hacks, client access to Hotmail has been limited to Microsoft email clients. Ximian's Connector software scrapes Exchange Server's WebDAV interface to provide Office interoperability for its Linux desktop, so it's theoretically possible that third party email clients will take up the onerous challenge. It's just very unlikely that they'll see much reward in the task.®

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