Why Doesn't GetMail Support All Hotmail/Windows Live Mail Accounts?

The one question I get asked more than any other is just that, why doesn't GetMail support all Hotmail accounts and the new Windows Live Mail (Kahuna) accounts?

To answer this I first need to explain how GetMail for Hotmail works. GetMail takes advantage of the WebDAV protocol that Microsoft made available originally to all Hotmail users. This protocol allowed all Hotmail users to access their e-mail using Microsoft e-mail clients such as Outlook and Outlook Express. Of course it wasn't long before other software developers started to take advantage of WebDAV access and a large number of utilities designed to improve and add functionality to Hotmail are now available, included in these is GetMail for Hotmail. What makes all this possible is WebDAV, like any other client/server protocol it is reasonably easy to write programs that take advantage of it, you make a request and the server responds with a nice reply. As long as your requests are well formed, so the responses will be as well.

However, spammers and other people were also taking advantage of this protocol to abuse the Hotmail system, so eventually Microsoft took the decision to only allow users for whom they had records (i.e. paid users) have access to WebDAV. The uproar that this decision caused which would have meant millions of users having no mail client access to their Hotmail account resulted in Microsoft going back on this decision to the extent that any user who had used WebDAV in the recent past would still be allowed access to it. If you never used WebDAV or opened a new Hotmail account you would have no access. That is the position at the moment.

Of course there is another way of accessing the e-mail stored within a webmail system other than a standard protocol (POP3, WebDAV) and that is by writing a program that works like an e-mail browser. This program can then strip out the e-mails directly from the webmail interface, it is largely no different from you browsing your Hotmail account and using cut and paste to get the information from your e-mails. This process is long winded and quite complex, and when you start getting into the area of multi-language systems we are talking about some serious development time. This is why GetMail for Hotmail doesn't support Hotmail access in this way, even doing this as a full time job it would need a team of developers to implement this. Then what happens when Microsoft changes the webmail interface, all of a sudden everything stops working again? It is a constant cat and mouse battle and something that I will never have the time for, besides why re-invent the wheel...

Now for the good news, there are already programs out there that do use this type of access to get at the e-mail stored in literally hundreds of different webmail only systems. Even better is that some of them even make the e-mail available in a standard format (POP3) that GetMail can use. In effect you are using these programs as the mail server from which you wish to forward on your e-mail. My favourite of these is FreePOPS which currently supports all Yahoo accounts,Hotmail accounts and even Windows Live Mail (Kahuna) accounts. You shouldn't confuse the 2 programs though, if you wish to only read your webmail in a normal e-mail client then you need FreePOPS, if you wish to forward your e-mail to another account(s) you need GetMail.

The next article will be an in depth guide to using GetMail with FreePOPS illustrating how you can forward your e-mail from whatever webmail provider you are using.