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Hotmail has Instant e-mail, now 10x faster

The Hotmail team identified and improved factors that contributed directly to the speed gains seen in the new Hotmail

Hotmail has Instant e-mail, now 10x faster
Hotmail is now 10x faster and tweaked for speed and performance

Microsoft's Windows blog has reported that Hotmail is now much faster than before. The Hotmail team have achieved this by trimming content on their pages thus helping speed up download times, and taking out the previous network roundtrip during logging in.

The blog described how the network usually presents a bottleneck even with high broadband speeds, hence Hotmail wanted to reduce this latency for the user by fine tuning its own processes.

Dick Craddock, Group Program Manager at Hotmail wrote, ‘The approach we decided to take was to get user data closer to the browser, and when the data is not available on the browser, get it there more efficiently, without the user noticing. We also decided to take advantage of modern browsers like Internet Explorer 9 to be more app-like, by doing more work in the browser and less on the server.'

The team identified three areas that had to be amended to achieve their goal of instant email. These were caching, preloading and asynchronous operations. Craddock further said, ‘In the new Hotmail, our server detects when your account changes - for instance, when a new message is delivered - and it sends a notification to the browser. The browser then retrieves the updated data, so your inbox is never out of sync.... when customers sign in to their inbox, the first thing they're likely to do is read the subject lines of new mail to decide which messages to open. In the new Hotmail, we use that time to download and cache the first few messages so they're ready when you need them.'

As for asynchronous operations, unnecessary server runs have been eliminated eg. When a message was previously deleted, it would have to call the server and wait for a response keeping the user waiting for a while before the message list is updated on the UI. The new Hotmail eliminates most server calls thus making tasks like deleting a message instantaneous.

For a comparison of how the new Hotmail fares over the old one, the team timed certain tasks and compared them. The numbers are as below. 

Open message - 3.3 seconds down to 0.18 seconds
Delete message - 3.1 seconds down to 0.14 seconds
Compose new message 4.3 seconds down to 0.20 seconds

Craddock ended the blog post by saying, ‘But, we're not done. 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.'

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