Microsoft’s Hotmail team today will show how more companies plan to use its “Active Views” technology — interactive email messages that can be updated in the recipient’s inbox, even after they’re sent.
Blogging platform Posterous plans to use the technology to let its users see and respond to comments about a post from within an email, including comments that were made after the message was received. Daily deals site LivingSocial will let people see the time remaining on a deal, the number of deals purchased, and scroll through different deals, from within the email message.
LinkedIn and Netflix, which were previously announced as users of the technology, are also in the process of developing and rolling out their own Active Views emails — dynamically updating with new information about a person’s contacts and movie queue.
The feature arose from Microsoft research showing that the vast majority of emails contain links, directing people to web sites or other applications, and making the experience less efficient.
“We started out by saying, hey, how do we solve this problem by rethinking email itself, so you can actually do more inside of email,” said Dan Lewis, Hotmail senior product manager.
Microsoft is showing the latest plans at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco this morning. It’s part of a broader overhaul of Hotmail, attempting to keep the venerable web mail service relevant in the face of strong competition from Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others. In some corners of the technology world, Hotmail also still needs to overcome negative perceptions based on its past struggles with spam.
The company introduced the Hotmail Active Views technology last year. The full interactivity works only in Hotmail, for now, but the same messages can still be viewed in more simple form in other email services and software programs. The technology uses OATH authentication and allows senders to deliver the content from their own servers, even expiring content after a period of time.
Microsoft itself has enabled Flickr and YouTube and other functionality in Active Views emails, allowing users to see and interact with photos and videos inside Hotmail emails, for example. Package tracking is another feature.
“The cool thing is, from a user’s perspective, it just looks like an email, but it lets them do more,” said David Dennis, principal program manager lead for Hotmail. “There’s lots of different approaches to adding third-party experiences in email — application add-ons and plug-ins, and things like that. From our perspective right now, the email is the application.”