Hotmail is a free web email service that is owned by Microsoft, now technically known as Windows Live Hotmail. One of the first such free web mail services (although followed by many imitators), it was launched in 1996 by two former Apple staff members, who sold it to Microsoft the following year for a reputed $400 million.
In 2008 most rankings, such as this one, placed it below Gmail, Google's comparable offering, in terms of services, including the provision of POP mail, storage capacity, attachment size allowed and other features. Many bloggers complain about problems with spam on Hotmail accounts.
In 2008 it was, however, still far more popular than Gmail, ranking only below Yahoo in numbers of users.