As Microsoft Corp. continues to roll out its redesigned Windows Live Hotmail, angry users are pushing back by complaining online that the new interface is a step backward and the Web-based e-mail service runs slower than before.
Most of the complaints stem from the revamped look and feel of Windows Live Hotmail, which Microsoft started to unveil Sept. 22. The new interface does away with what had been two options: the years-old "classic" interface and a newer "full" interface that was first offered in 2006. Instead, Microsoft tossed those choices in favor of an interface that merged elements of both, and that the company claimed was much faster to render in a browser.
Users weren't amused.
"It's a big step backwards," said a user identified as "Dave the Red" in a message from late October on a Microsoft support newsgroup. "I want my old Hotmail back!!"
"Don't like it!!! Don't like it!!! Don't like it!!!" added an anonymous user in a comment posted Thursday to a short Microsoft FAQ on the new interface. "Everything seems to take up more space on the page. I feel like I'm looking at a book in large print for old folks! Please put it back the way it was!"
Others commenting on the same blog were a lot more blunt. "The new version is the biggest bunch of s**t, ever. I can't do anything, I mean anything at all," said another unidentified user.
Although there were some positive comments on the Microsoft FAQ, they were greatly outnumbered by gripes. By Computerworld's count, only three of the 100 most-recent comments applauded the change. The FAQ has collected more than 850 comments so far.
Some users reported more serious problems than an awkward interface, claiming that they weren't able to read, delete or print messages; couldn't access some of their folders; and were unable to compose and send new messages. "Come on Microsoft! First Vista, now this!" ranted a user labeled as "Joey" in a message Thursday. "I've used Hotmail for 8 years and never experienced any problems till now," he added, then ticked off nine problems, ranging from fuzzy fonts and missing contacts.
Many of the users called for Microsoft to bring back the "classic" interface option, or asked where it had gone. "You have distroyed [sic] a perfectly good Hotmail!!!!" ranted another anonymous user. "Everything is so messed up that it is almost impossible to use. Give us back the Hotmail as it was."
Users also disputed Microsoft's claim that the new Hotmail was faster. Numerous comments added to the FAQ argued otherwise. "Much slower than the old," said "JackC" late Wednesday.
"This version is slower when opening mails," added another user earlier in the day.
Microsoft Friday defended the new interface, its performance claims, and the decision to ditch the "classic" and "full" mode options.
"When we originally rolled out the full version of Hotmail, we learned that much of the new technology we incorporated didn't perform well in narrowband markets, resulting in the re-release of the classic view," a company spokeswoman said in an e-mail. "However, with our new combined platform, we offer great performance in all markets by putting the best features from both versions in one well-designed platform. Because of these performance improvements, it is no longer necessary to offer the classic version."
But by the tone of users' reactions, Microsoft has made a big mistake. "Please put it back the way it was," begged an unidentified user commenting on the FAQ. "I use Hotmail for work and home, and it is now taking me twice as long and the end result is unsatisfactory. How long is it going to take to get this fixed and put it back the way it was?"
The ongoing rollout of the new interface will continue over the next few months, the Microsoft spokeswoman said.
This story, "Hotmail Users Object to New Design" was originally published by Computerworld.