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Here at MUO, we’ve covered Hotmail a number of times. Jack wrote about how to access Hotmail messages from your Gmail account and Tim explained how to make your Hotmail email account more secure.
If you are one of those Hotmail users that has lost track of the MSN Hotmail Member Directory, I’m going to help you find it again, and also show you how to make better use of it to find your long lost friends.
Hotmail Is Part Of Windows Live
The first thing that the majority of readers will likely already know (so it shouldn’t be news) is that Hotmail is no longer just MSN Hotmail, but instead it’s now Windows Live Hotmail. This means that the MSN Hotmail member directory that people were so accustomed to is now the Windows Live member directory.
The problem with the new Windows Live Hotmail system is that it’s not really apparent how to get to the public member directory. When you’re logged into your Hotmail email account, you can access the member directory by clicking on “Contacts” in the left navigation bar. Most people assume that “Contacts” only means your own personal contacts, but this is in fact the starting point to find the public directory.
Within your Contacts page, you’ll see a link to “Add people” in the left menu. Over the past few years, like many other social networks, Microsoft has been busy cloning the Facebook model. You’ll find that the entire Windows Live social network system looks and feels a lot like Facebook, right down to the public status updates and how you connect with friends. The first step is to choose what privacy level you want to set your Windows Live account.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll find yourself in the Windows Live member directory search page. Here, you can import friends from your other social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, or your Gmail account. To search through the massive member directory for any long-lost friends, you’ll need to click on “Search for people.”
Now, you’re finally on the Member Directory search page. This is much like doing a Facebook search to find your family or friends on the Internet in that you can search by their name, employer, school or a number of other search methods. If you’ve been looking for lost friends or family and couldn’t find them on Facebook, you could very well find them on Windows Live, since it is currently one of the largest email systems online.
Type in the name of the friend you’re looking for and you’ll get back the results of everyone on Windows Live with the matching name. Just like on Facebook, you’ll see any location, educational or employment information that the person made public. These details should help you better identify whether that person is the friend you’ve been searching for.
Once you find them, the similarity to Facebook really comes out. You can invite the person to become one of your Windows Live “friends”. This allows them to see your updates and details, and lets them see yours. It also adds them to your contact list in Windows Live Messenger and any other Windows Live social apps that you use.
Another similarity to Facebook People search is the ability to dig through the MSN Hotmail member directory using a list of “variables,” including gender, location, education, and even interests. Not only is it a good way to find long lost friends, but it’s also a cool way to discover people that share your interests and potentially make new friends.
The one thing that really surprised me was when I started exploring the personal pages of some of the Windows Live users. Interestingly, the individual Windows Live pages are laid out a lot like Facebook pages. It’s pretty clear that Microsoft is trying to utilize the same layout as Facebook – catering to an online community that clearly prefers a social network where you post status updates and follow your friends’ updates.
It was also shocking to me that, just like on Facebook, people are so willing to offer their very private information. For example, I found one user (the one above) that provided her home and mobile phone numbers and her email address, to the public Windows Live network!
Such a large member directory that’s publicly accessible to anyone with a Windows Live account makes it an excellent resource to find your friends. It may not be easy to find the member directory search page, but once you sign up for a Windows Live Hotmail account and follow the steps above, you can start searching as much as you like.
Have you used the Hotmail directory to “discover” any lost friends? Do you use the Windows Live social network? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.