Years after its competitors, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is finally integrating Windows Live Messenger with its Windows Live Hotmail e-mail service. Hotmail users will now be able to IM their Messenger contacts from within Hotmail. The move makes obvious sense. Microsoft has been increasingly linking its various Windows Live-branded services together. For instance, last November Microsoft introduced social networking like features to Windows Live that make it easier for users to share informationlike blog posts or photos from the various Windows Live services with one another. And, of course, both Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) have had IM integrated with e-mail for years. Google debuted the feature in February 2006, while Yahoo followed in 2007.
Despite its seeming backwardness, Hotmail remains the most popular e-mail service around the world, according to comScore (NSDQ: SCOR). In the United States, though, it's basically tied for second place with AOL (NYSE: TWX) behind Yahooand losing visitors. Unique users were down 8 percent in March, while Yahoo Mail posted a 12 percent increase and Gmail saw a 38 percent increase in visitors. Traffic to AOL Mail dropped 7 percent. Microsoft, though, contends that those numbers understate its strength since they do not track minutes spent using the various e-mail services.
By Joseph Tartakoff