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Tuesday
Jul312012

Microsoft Outlook: New Webmail Service Takes Aim at Gmail

A screenshot of Microsoft's Outlook email service, launched on July 31, 2012. (Microsoft)(NEW YORK) -- Microsoft has spent the summer showing off some major changes. An all-new Windows 8 ... its first computing devices, the Microsoft Surface tablet ... as well as Xbox Smartglass, Office 2013, and the new Windows Phone 8.

And the engineers in Redmond aren't done yet. Today Microsoft is announcing its new take on webmail with Outlook.com. And it too is a break with the past.

No, Outlook isn't just a new version of the email program that runs on your computer (though that program is still around and still called Outlook). The new Outlook is an entirely new webmail service, complete with @outlook.com domains. It doesn't replace Microsoft's Hotmail or Windows Live email service, but it is very easy to move your @hotmail.com or @live.com email address over to the new service.

Microsoft didn't just want to redesign Hotmail, said Chris Jones, the head of Microsoft's Windows Live group. Instead it wanted to design a completely new email system.

If you've used Windows 8 or Windows Phone, the Outlook.com look and feel will be familiar. It's based on Microsoft's clean Metro design: lots of white space, clean lines, and well-organized menus. Outlook is designed around the inbox; advertising has been pushed off to the right and the lack of clutter makes it easy to focus on your new messages. Microsoft says that in its basic Inbox view (without the right or bottom message pane enabled) it shows more messages in your inbox than competing services, like Google's Gmail.

But an eye-pleasing design isn't the only thing Microsoft hopes will lure people away from other services, like Gmail and Yahoo. The company says Outlook is a more social form of email. While Gmail might only loop in with your Google Talk or Google Plus account, Outlook can bring in your Facebook and Twitter streams. Skype will also be integrated in the final version.

Microsoft is releasing a preview version of Outlook.com today. And even better it is providing unlimited storage for all -- no need to worry about attachment sizes, etc. All users will be able to sign up for a brand new @outlook email handle or bring in their other email accounts, including Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. and use Outlook as an all-in-one email service. (You can receive messages from those services in Outlook and send messages from that address.) Microsoft seems to be aware that many are tied to their email addresses and is making it easy to switch between accounts.

"Similar to how you can keep your phone number -- but change to a better service -- we want to make it easy for people to enjoy all of the benefits of Outlook.com without having to change their email address if they don't want to," Jones said.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul022012

Lawsuit: Gmail, Yahoo Email Invade Privacy, Even Non-Users'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- By now most of us have accepted a fact of the digital age: If, say, we write the word "eyeglasses" in the body of an email, advertisements for LensCrafters and Armani specs will most likely pop up on our computer screens soon.  We may not like it, but we understand that we trade privacy for the convenience of modern technology.

But some California residents have decided to take a stand against it, and have filed two class action lawsuits against Google and Yahoo in Marin County Superior Court.  The suits, filed on June 12 and June 28, claim that the web giants illegally intercept emails sent from individual non-Gmail and non-Yahoo subscribers to individual Gmail and Yahoo subscribers, without their knowledge, consent or permission.  What's more, they say the interception takes place before the email reaches its intended target.

"We began the investigation quite some time ago when a client came to us," said F. Jerome Tapley, a lawyer in Birmingham, Ala., who represents the plaintiffs.  "They noticed that the ads within their email browser were strangely correlating to the incoming email they were getting from their friends.  It creeps people out."

In the suit, Stuart Diamond, of Marin County; David Sutton, also of Marin County; and Roland Williams of Sonoma County -- none of whom have personal Google or Yahoo email accounts, but have sent emails to people who do -- allege that Google and Yahoo are violating the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA), which prohibits anyone from wiretapping or eavesdropping on emails without the consent, knowledge and permission of all parties.

"The invasion of privacy by wiretapping or, in the alternative, eavesdropping, caused by Google and Yahoo's! continual and pervasive use of such devices seriously threatens the exercise of personal liberties," the lawyers write.

The suit, which is for unspecified financial damages, was filed on behalf of all residents of California who are not Google or Yahoo email subscribers but have sent emails to people who are. 

Yahoo did not respond to requests for comment, but in an email statement, a Google spokesperson said, "We're not going to comment on the ongoing litigation.  But to be clear, ad targeting in Gmail is fully automated, and no humans read users' emails or Google account information in order to show advertisements."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan252012

Google Changes Raising Privacy Concerns

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images(MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.) -- In just over a month, Google will roll out sweeping new changes to its privacy polices and terms of service that will link user data across its e-mail, video and social-networking services -- a move that has some privacy watchdogs worried.

Starting on March 1, when people sign up for Google, they'll be signing up for and agreeing to all of its products -- Gmail, YouTube, Google+, etc. -- which will all be covered under one new privacy policy.

"Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you've provided from one service with information from other services.  In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience," Google explained in a blog entry Tuesday.

The changes will also allow the online search engine to follow users' activities across of its platforms.  Google says the adjustments will enable it to improve the services it provides.

Alan Simpson, the vice president of the group Policy for Common Sense Media, isn't a fan of the move and thinks users should have the ability to opt out.

"It's tracking across a lot of different platforms and combining a lot of different things that we do.  It's a challenging area because its new technology and its hard to follow how we're being tracked," Simpson said.

He added, "These companies can and should do a better job of enabling us as consumers, and especially parents of kids to protect their privacy and their personal information.  And to make the choices they see fit."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb282011

Google Probes Lost E-Mail Glitch, Explains Gmail Backup Methods

Photo Courtesy - ABC News (NEW YORK) -- A Google glitch that left thousands of Gmail users griping about lost messages and chats Sunday has drawn new attention to a task not likely at the top of many to-do lists: backing up.

Although less than one percent (.02 percent) of users were affected this time, according to Google, it's better to follow the Boy Scout model: Be prepared. And learn how to back up. Google offers a set of directions under Gmail Help.

Also on its site, Google provides configuration directions for popular programs such as Apple Mail, Outlook Thunderbird and Windows Mail.

Backing up Gmail to another e-mail program is free, but it means setting up another account or blending your Gmail account with another account that you might use for professional or other purposes.

If you're willing to pay $19.95, a program called Gmail Keeper will back up and save Gmail messages as a .zip file to a local disk. The downloadable program comes with a scheduling feature that can be set up to automatically back up Gmail daily, weekly or monthly (you can also opt for manual backups only).

The program also stores labels associated with each message, and, if you have several Gmail accounts, the program can back up and restore all of them.

If you want to migrate all your messages over to another account (if an old account has been hacked or overridden with spam), the tool can also help with that.

And for those who keep sensitive information stored in their Gmail messages, Gmail Keeper encrypts the mail and can password protect it.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Monday
Nov152010

Facebook Updates Messaging Service, Not 'E-Mail Killer'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Facebook users, a new e-mail address is heading your way. As expected, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a new messaging system at a San Francisco event Monday, but be careful before calling it "e-mail."

"We don't think a modern messaging system is going to be e-mail," Zuckerberg said.

As part of the new service, which will initially be invitation-only, Facebook users will receive an @Facebook.com e-mail address. But Zuckerberg emphasized that the new application is much more than e-mail.

"This is not an e-mail killer, this is a messaging system that includes e-mail as one part of it," Zuckerberg said.

Users will be able to receive e-mail messages through their Facebook accounts if they want to and will be able to limit messages to only their friends or friends of friends.

Considering that Facebook has 500 million members worldwide, an e-mail program would instantaneously become a major force on the Web. Hotmail leads the Web in e-mail services with about 346 million users, Yahoo e-mail is a close second with 303 million users and Gmail has about 186 million worldwide users, according to ComScore data from July.

Facebook's announcement means further competition in an already crowded arena. AOL launched a new Web-based e-mail service, called Project Phoenix, Sunday. The new program is available only to a limited number of users now, but will open up next year to those who sign up to use a beta site.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio