On this day in 1996, Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith launch HoTMaiL
Hotmail was launched by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith as HoTMaiL in July 1996. Bhatia, born and bred in India, moved at college age to attend Caltech and later went on to Stanford. After his master’s he joined Apple, but left to form Firepower Systems Inc innovating ICs for use with PowerPC workstations. Jack Smith, also an ex-Apple employee, joined him with the notion of a web-based email service.
The duo first created a system called Javasoft and, gaining funding for their webmail idea, they launched HoTMaiL as an advertising-funded service free to the user.
HoTMaiL was one of the first webmail services, that is a service that provides email services via a browser. It was written in FreeBSD and Solaris; within just six months it had attracted over a million users.
Eighteen months later in December 1997, it had grown to 8.5 million users; Microsoft then moved to acquire Hotmail. Bhatia was obviously a tough negotiator, rejecting an initial offer of $150m and also a subsequent offer of $350m; he held out to achieve an impressive $400m.
Under Microsoft’s wing the service was quickly customised for each local country to operate in over thirty languages. By 1999 it had grown to some 30 million users.
Successfully negotiating some security breaches, adding support for Mozilla and other services and weathering the launch of Google’s Gmail, in 2011 it had approaching 400 million users worldwide.
Bhatia went on to develop other ideas, including a teleconferencing web service called SabSeBolo.com, which in Hindi means ‘talk to everyone’. Smith too was CEO of a number of ventures.