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End of era for online email pioneer

San Francisco - The pioneer of online email has met it's end.

Hotmail, launched in 1996 and acquired by Microsoft two years later for 400 million dollars, was the first web-based email service to gain traction and still has more than 300 million users.

Screenshot of Outlook.com

But on Tuesday Microsoft opened its successor, Outlook.com, to the general public and said it would start upgrading Hotmail users to the new service.

The move is part of a major Microsoft strategy to cope with a rapidly changing digital world that is increasingly dominated by smartphones, tablets and software from Apple and Google. Google's Gmail service has 425 million users.

Microsoft's new service is touted as having a better user interface than Hotmail, and includes updates from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn contacts with better controls for managing the inbox, controlling mass emails and spam, and sharing photos and other files.

“Today is a major milestone in our mission to provide people everywhere with the world's best email experience,” said David Law, Outlook.com's director of product management. “We expect all people using Hotmail to be upgraded by this summer.” - Sapa-dpa

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