Citing concerns about spammers abusing the service, Microsoft will announce today that the company is dropping a feature from its Hotmail service that lets nonpaying customers access their Hotmail email from Microsoft Office Outlook and Outlook Express. The feature is based on a technology called Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV), an extension of the HTTP protocol on which the Web is based.
"Since we implemented Human Interactive Proof (HIP) to ensure that only humans and not automated systems were opening Hotmail accounts, spammers have found other ways to go after the system," MSN Lead Product Manager Brooke Richardson told me in a prebriefing Friday. "Recently, there's been an increase in exploits of the WebDAV protocol, which is used to enable people to access Hotmail from Outlook and Outlook Express. We've offered [this access] for free for some time, although it's typically a feature that other email providers charge for. But because of the rise in abuse of this protocol, we're making a change to WebDAV to curb abuse. Over the next few months, we're transitioning WebDAV to be available only to customers of our subscription services, such as Hotmail Extra Storage and MSN Premium. We expect this change will help us to more effectively stop spam emanating from Hotmail."