Microsoft claims it has made Hotmail 10x faster in just six months

By Tom Warren, on 30th Jun 11 4:24 pm with 15 Comments

Microsoft revealed on Thursday that it has made Hotmail 10x faster since December 2010.

The software giant revealed its claims in a blog posting on Thursday. The company has been working on a number of new ways to speed up its popular webmail service. “We measured how fast our Hotmail pages loaded all over the world,” says Microsoft’s Dick Craddock. Microsoft then compared its results to competitor products.”We were pretty good, but a number of very common actions were just too slow,” admits Craddock.

Microsoft decided to trim a large amount of content from its pages to speed up download times. “Our goal was to make Hotmail feel instant,” says Craddock. Microsoft identified three techniques to improve Hotmail load times.

Caching

The old version of Hotmail used to request data directly from the server each time it was needed. The result was that a number of un-necessary queries were being sent to the backend databases, slowing things down. Microsoft now caches the data after it’s downloaded. Message lists are stored in the browser’s DOM (Document Object Model) so Hotmail can simply call it again without having to re-download it. The cache is cleared each time a user signs out of Hotmail or closers their browser.

Pre-loading

Microsoft analysed their usage patterns of Hotmail and determined that customers generally read the subject lines of new emails when they open up their Hotmail inbox. “We use that time to download and cache the first few messages so they’re ready when you need them,” says Craddock. The approach means the top few emails load almost instantly. “We’re continuing to fine-tune our design to make this as efficient as possible,” says Craddock. “Not all users have this feature turned on by default yet.” Microsoft also preloads code and data in the browser. Hotmail caches the JavaScript and HTML code and address book data that is required for creating a new email. When a Hotmail user creates a new email message or replies, the data is instantly available.

Asynchronous operations

Microsoft’s old version of Hotmail used to have to wait for a server response before displaying and updating the UI. If a Hotmail user deleted a message then they’d have to wait for the server response until they’d see the message list once again. “This made Hotmail feel slow,” admits Craddock. “You felt you had to wait for the operation to complete before you could continue working.” Microsoft’s updated version of Hotmail no longer waits for server operation responses before updating the user interface.

Microsoft finalised the changes a few weeks ago and has been releasing the code to all Hotmail users recently. Open messages, deleting messages and composing messages have all dropped in time by over 90%. The dramatic improvements are demonstrated in a video below. However, Microsoft isn’t finished yet. “We’re not done,” says Craddock. “We believe performance is a feature, and we’re committed to making Hotmail as fast as possible. We will continue to find more ways to make Hotmail load faster, and we’re also working on ways to improve the efficiency of even more of the most common actions.”

  • Anonymous

    It is definitely fast! Was just on gmail and was complaining about how slow it is compared to hotmail now. Pretty different story compared to a year ago!

    • http://www.winrumors.com Tom W

      Yeah it’s very noticeable. Nice to know how they did it too :)

    • GP007

      Die-hard google fans will probably call you crazy for saying hotmail is faster than gmail.  :P

      Anyways, I like this steady updating to the Live services like hotmail, bing, bing maps, skydrive and so on.  They should’ve been doing this sorta updating often from the get go but oh well.   The rest of this year with mango and then into 2012 with wave 5 apps and updates to services is looking better and better.

  • http://twitter.com/s_a_r_k_i_s sarkis chamelian
  • http://twitter.com/s_a_r_k_i_s sarkis chamelian

    Press mute on the above video, and click on this link below while watching the demonstration of hotmail….CLASSIC !   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTGyeGgMpk8

    • http://www.twitter.com/wixostrix WixosTrix

      that made it quite epic lol

    • http://josedmorales.net Josè Daniel

      Hahahaha +1

  • http://doctorwhofan98.wordpress.com/ doctorwhofan98

    I’d noticed the speed improvements. I’m glad that message pre-loading will be turned on by default.

  • http://www.twitter.com/wixostrix WixosTrix

    I used to despise both hotmail and yahoo mail and use gmail full-time.  now that I’ve back in the ecosystem with WP7 I started using hotmail and there isn’t much I miss from Gmail, except archiving.  I can’t wait for the metro UI overhaul. you know it’s coming =D

  • http://www.twitter.com/wixostrix WixosTrix

    I used to despise both hotmail and yahoo mail and use gmail full-time.  now that I’ve back in the ecosystem with WP7 I started using hotmail and there isn’t much I miss from Gmail, except archiving.  I can’t wait for the metro UI overhaul. you know it’s coming =D

  • Anonymous

    its faster and cooler <3
    im glad microsoft is working hard on hotmail.

  • Guest

    Extra speed is nice. But MS really needs to understand why organizationally it almost always waits until it is pushed before markedly improving existing products. Hotmail, like IE, was basically left to rot until competitors (Google specifically) came in and started to make inroads. Then, and we’re talking years later, MS finally wakes up and starts making some of the improvements it could and should have made all along. Only now it’s harder to get people to listen because they’ve got a picture in their head of the old, lagging version, and of course the competitor has now built a nice beachhead from which they can expand.  Rinse repeat. The upfront costs of making the improvements is trivial compared to the retroactive challenge of trying to improve the brand image after its been tarnished and gain back lost share. Yet they do this over and over and over again. How long before we’ll see Media Center improvements now that they’ve similarly let that rot?

  • hssarkar

    actually I like hotmail better than the gmail now. Hotmail Skydrive is awesome…and if you link your account with FB the picture slide show and viewing experience is way way better than FB itself…I mostly now go directly to my hotmail account to get to know everything social and the email experience is much better than gmail. (gmail still has the HTML static page look)…phew…

  • Xyz

    Hotmail is much better now and no need to use any other :)

  • Anonymous

    I can vouch that hotmail is much faster than it use to be.