I try to be a good Microsoft citizen – using our software wherever possible, providing feedback to the product teams, filing bugs, and generally dogfooding. (Hopefully that doesn’t imply that I’m blinkered to the merits of other software: I certainly don’t mean to imply that we have the best product in every space, or that I only use Microsoft software.) But there are times when some technological barrier prevents me from “doing the right thing”, and that’s frustrating.
One particular example recently has been personal email. Like a lot of people I know, I keep my work and personal email separate for various reasons, and I bought a ten-year lease on a vanity domain name a little while back. I don’t want to be tied to a single mail provider for the rest of my life, and I want to retain some control over my email address as well as having something that’s easy to remember. Of course, this has precluded me from using Hotmail, the shared personal calendar services, the new Kahuna mail beta, or a number of other new Windows Live services that we’re starting to roll out, as well as the inconvenience of having to maintain my own mail server. On the other hand, I don’t want to become email@example.com just to benefit from those services.
I was therefore delighted to see an internal mail announcing the launch of a new Windows Live service yesterday that allows you to be a fully-fledged member of the Windows Live world whilst bringing your own domain. Windows Live Custom Domains allows you to use Hotmail (or soon, Kahuna) for email whilst retaining your domain name. You just register the domain of your choice and point the MX record to the Hotmail servers (having registered on the Windows Live site), and you can then simply sign in with your own email address to Hotmail and receive mail there. For me, it was quick and painless to move my entire family over to the new service – barely five minutes’ downtime and we were receiving mail at the new location. Now my wife can get at her email from anywhere without relying on a POP3 client; we can see our email as part of the live.com portal, and we’ve got free email with integrated IM capabilities.
If you’ve got a personal domain, try it out – you can always switch back again if you don’t like it. You can be the hero of your family by registering a vanity domain name related to your surname and then handing out vanity Hotmail addresses! And I can breathe a sigh of relief that I’m being a good corporate citizen and start sending useful feedback!
More details on Windows Live Custom Domains at the team blog on MSN Spaces.