It turns out to be quite complicated these days to create a new email address without running up against the fact that most usernames and combinations are already taken. To solve this problem, Microsoft has decided to terminate all Hotmail, Windows Live, and Outlook accounts that have been inactive for more than 270 days, and after a period of one year has passed since the user last logged in, the email addresses can be selected by new users.
We already knew about the 270-day limit that Microsoft used as a rule for deactivating accounts. The real news is this new “account recycling” measure, similar to the one taken by Yahoo a few months ago, meaning that the accounts will be recycled and made available to whoever wishes to register the same address again, according to this weekend’s edition of PC World magazine.
This means that if you haven’t opened your Microsoft account on any of its Outlook, Live, or Hotmail services, it will be closed automatically, all the saved content will be eliminated, and the email address will be released for re-use.
This move has fired up an enormous debate: on one side we have the measure’s defenders, who are fed up with having to do a juggling act to find a valid username, without too many numbers or combinations that are hard to remember. “If you haven’t used your account in nine months you probably don’t need it that much,” is how the reasoning goes, and that’s at least partly true, since after years and years of the creation of new email accounts by millions of users, a large number of the accounts are inactive, and have been for much longer than the specified period.
On the other side, we find those users in opposition who find the measure rather dysfunctional, given its evident privacy problems. Microsoft will make your old email address available to whoever wants it, but this might still be linked to your social networks or any other type of information. Yahoo uses filters to keep conflicts of this nature from occurring with recycled accounts, but how efficient this is remains highly questionable.
There are loads of cases of people that have received emails from friends of the old account holders or even medical information that was linked to other people, or of problems when it comes to recovering lost passwords on a webpage registration after discovering that your account has been deactivated. It’s still not clear what process Microsoft will use to recycle the user accounts, but the debate rages on.