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Microsoft ditches old Hotmail design; users gripe

Company says redesign of Hotmail is faster than the earlier "classic" and "full" modes. But some users want to turn the clock back.

Yahoo and Google aren't the only ones whose Web site changes incur the wrath of users who'd rather things stay the way they were.

Microsoft is discontinuing an option to use Hotmail's older "classic" interface, merging it with a newer "full" design into a hybrid the company says is faster to use than both the predecessors. "With our new combined platform, we offer great performance in all markets by putting the best features from both versions in one well-designed platform. Because of these performance improvements it is no longer necessary to offer the classic version," the company said in a statement.

Matt Penttila was among those who was unhappy with the change when he lost his old Hotmail interface earlier this week. (More complaints are lodged at My Digital Life site.)

Hotmail users "can't differentiate between tabs and backgrounds because the background is the same color as the tabs, can't change the size of the columns to the left, can't read anything below 10 folders without scrolling down," Penttila said of the newer design. In addition, "read windows don't allow for scrolling side to side, just up and down, anything with graphics is automatically flagged as safe or unsafe and show gray boxes when the day before they were fine and showed with no problem," he said.

What peeved him most, though, was that he said Microsoft foisted the change on him. "They just did it without any warning or consent," he said.

Microsoft said there was indeed warning. "Hotmail customers were notified of these changes beginning in early September," the company said, before the changes started going live on September 22. "The team sent out e-mails and posted ads in advance, which highlighted the upcoming changes to the Windows Live Hotmail."

Also, Microsoft described the Hotmail overhaul rationale in an October blog post by Dick Craddock, Hotmail's group program manager.

It's hard to change heavily used sites. A 2001 Hotmail revamp triggered complaints, then a 2006 Hotmail redesign/a> caused enough problems that Microsoft reverted to classic mode by default.

Yahoo and Google have struggled with objections to redesigns of the Yahoo front page, the Flickr home page, and the iGoogle customizable start page.