If you want to talk about one of the biggest web services ever, you need not look farther than Microsoft’s Hotmail platform which has and consistently remains the most used email service in the world. Now if you want to compare that to Gmail, you’re welcome to do so as the Google has made great strides into Microsoft’s territory especially with requiring a Gmail account to use many of its services such as YouTube, Google+, Android and Blogger.

So which one of these services offer the better set of features and which one is ultimately the better email service? Read on to find out.

Monthly Users

If you ask the average internet user which email client is bigger, you’re almost guaranteed to hear Hotmail. There is no doubt that the mindshare of Hotmail is far bigger than that of Gmail. However, with this mindshare has come many problems and even though third party pictures would paint a similar picture, if you should make a call to Mountain View, you may hear a different story from Google representatives.

According to Google, monthly users of Gmail is more than half a billion. The company refuses to give out details on how it has arrived at this number and many suspect that they could be throwing Android, YouTube and Google+ into the mix. According to comSource, a third party web analytics company, that number is actually289 million while Microsoft’s Hotmail garners 325 million monthly users. comSource doesn’t include data for mobile devices which could lead to the discrepancy although it should be noted that both companies have mobile apps for their email services and can be accessed from any smartphone. For the sake of unbiased opinions, we will use comSource numbers.

Interface

Gmail has largely remained unchanged since it was launched back in 2005 to glowing reviews and limited availability until 2007. This isn’t a bad thing because we still like the service and so far it meshes with many of their other services. On the other hand, Hotmail has gone under a radical redesign within the past couple of months and so far there has been nothing but glowing reviews about the new branding.

When you put a Hotmail and Gmail inbox side by side, you see two very different things. Yes the layout is largely the same but the design elements are very different. It is clear to see that Microsoft is putting a lot of effort into making Hotmail perfect for touchscreens while meshing it’s design with the new styling of its Office and operating system products.

Which do we prefer? In a sense, Hotmail. It looks very elegant, minimalistic and refined. Gmail looks cluttered at times and this probably has to do with Google’s choice of dark colors over Microsoft’s use of light colors. Not only that, but Hotmail is more consistent with SkyDrive, Skype, Office, Windows etc. than Gmail is with Google Drive, Google Maps, Google+, Chrome and Android.

Spam

In the days when Hotmail was the undisputed king of email services, few would have anything good to say about the spam filtering. It was not uncommon for you to receive dozens of spam monthly which cluttered up your inbox and made your life an otherwise pain.

Thanks to governments around the world cracking down on bot networks responsible for spam, and Microsoft’s latest spam filtering technology, spam is a lot less common in Hotmail. I personally have two Hotmail accounts which I use quite frequently and have been surprised to notice that the amount of spam that has been getting to me is greatly reduced compared with two or three years ago.

Gmail is also extremely good at detecting and vanquishing spam from your inbox. My Gmail account is primarily used for business and this is one of the biggest reasons why I chose Gmail back in 2007 over Hotmail for my business account as I noticed that their spam filters were far superior to Microsoft’s back then.

Whose is currently better, I would have to say based on my usage within the past 6 months, Microsoft has been marginally better than Google. Of course others may tell you otherwise, and they most naturally could be right, but it’s safe to say that both companies have very good spam filters.

Privacy

Privacy is a big concern, now more than ever especially when it comes to not only identity thieves and con artists, but governments as well. It used to be which company is more susceptible to a privacy breach. These days, it is which company is more likely to sell your data to an advertiser or hand it over to the government without a warrant.

Thus far Google has been a lot more transparent than Microsoft in notifying users of its security policies, and considering that Google is more about services while Microsoft is still mainly centered on software, it’s not quite surprising. Microsoft for the most part has kept mum about it’s policies regarding divulging information to the U.S government, though the company has taken a hard lined approach to utilizing cookies to track users around the internet. Google has been very open about how it shares data with governments around the world; however the company is notorious for mining user data and serving up contextual ads based on their internet usage.

At this point it’s hard to say which company has the better security policy and which doesn’t. Simply put, Google spends more money lobbying governments around the world and recently has had more antitrust lawsuits and judgments brought and passed against them than Microsoft involving user data. Most of Microsoft’s wrangling’s with governments worldwide has involved their anticompetitive practices.

Take it for what you will, but I personally am wearier of a company who has a business model that focuses 90% around services than one who is selling products. That said, both companies offer SSL when accessing your email from a web browser or application.

Features

Both Gmail and Hotmail offer many of the same features. Google offers 10GB of free inbox storage, and counting, with email attachments capped at 25MB. Microsoft offers unlimited email storage with 25MB attachments, though the attachment size can increase to 10GB if the user utilizes SkyDrive.

We like the threaded view in Gmail quite a bit and it is one of our favorite features. On the other hand, we love the ability to pin important messages to the top of your inbox as well as automatically sort emails into different folders. To be fair, Gmail does allow you to add priorities to email messages as well as sort incoming messages into different folders, but the process is not as easy and straightforward as Hotmail.

Many of the other features remain the same and overall logging into either a Hotmail or Gmail client is about the same. We wouldn’t count either as better though we noticed that initially getting to the Gmail login page is faster though it takes a second or two longer to load the inbox vs. Microsoft’s Hotmail.

Conclusion

In the end, your choice is based on preference. Microsoft has made it quite easy to transfer from a Gmail to a Hotmail account. The process isn’t as easy going the other way around. Personally we like the new Hotmail better than Gmail and overall there are a few advantages, but these are not major ones and definitely not big enough for us to consider one an uncontested winner. However, going by market share, things would seem to be in Microsoft’s favor, though we are pretty sure Google would like to object to that.