Email and webmail statistics

Those preparing introductory presentations on email marketing are often short of two bits of information. The first is a clear outline of the value of email marketing. The second is background statistics on email usage and the popularity of different webmail services. The article Why do email marketing? meets the first need, and the following compilation of numbers and anecdotal evidence addresses the second...

Webmail providers

There are no official statistics comparing the user numbers of the different web-based email address providers. Nevertheless, there is enough information available to make some clear statements about the relative popularity of different services.

The leadership is contested by Yahoo! Mail and Microsoft's Hotmail (now called Windows Live Hotmail). Thereafter it gets more uncertain. Gmail is often cited as the third "biggie," but the number of active accounts still falls well short of either of its two largest competitors. This may change in the future, of course.

The details...

2009 data from competitive intelligence service Hitwise suggests Yahoo are the leaders:

Interestingly, the data also suggests that email is a far more important part of the Yahoo and MSN web properties than Google's. The mail-related domains are the most popular at both the Yahoo and MSN portals, more popular even than the portal index page. While Gmail accounts for a small proportion of visits to Google.

Email service provider MailChimp analysed the mails sent out by its many clients and found Windows Live Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail fighting it out for the most popular email address provider, followed by Gmail, then AOL.

Account numbers

A May 2010 Factsheet from Microsoft notes that "Windows Live Hotmail is one of the world's largest e-mail providers with more than 360 million active accounts". Note that the number of active users will be less, since a user may have more than one active account.

In a May 2010 interview, Yahoo! Mail's Carlo Catajan mentions 275+ million users.

Comscore reported on unique user traffic for the US only to the big four email domains in July 2009. Yahoo! Mail attracted 106 million unique US users, Windows Live Hotmail 47 million, Gmail 37 million and AOL Mail 36.4 million.

An April, 2008 USA Today article cites ComScore Media Metrix figures for February, 2008:

Microsoft webmail properties: 256.2 million users
Yahoo: 254.6 million users
Google: 91.6 million users
AOL webmail properties: 48.9 million users

In February, 2008, a Yahoo executive claimed the company served 260 million email users.

In October, 2007, an official Yahoo! blog cited statistics suggesting Yahoo represented 255 million of the world's 543 million webmail accounts.

In a company blog, a Senior Product Manager noted that Hotmail has "260+ million existing customers" and a news report from April 2007 states, "Hotmail provides more than 280 million e-mail accounts, 20 million of which are Windows Live Hotmail."

Writing in August, 2007, Microsoft blogger Omar Shahine noted that "...on Windows Live Hotmail we are hosting about 200 million accounts."

A February, 2007 article in TechCrunch gives user numbers for Yahoo! Mail (250 million), Hotmail (228 million) and Gmail (51 million), but does not cite the source of the numbers.

An unofficial blog on Google gives account numbers in this post, but the source of the numbers is not publicly available. It places Yahoo Mail and Hotmail first and second, respectively, with Gmail as the fourth biggest webmail provider.

Do not, though, expect the email addresses in your own email lists to necessarily reflect the relative popularity of different webmail services. The popularity of each service differs, for example, between regions and demographics.

Webmail providers like Gmail and Microsoft may also be behind some other domain names, either through POP3 retrieval of email from other accounts or through email hosting services offered to businesses and organizations which retain the latter's domains (see this blog post for more detail).

General email usage

There are numerous estimates of typical email use and email traffic from various sources. Here just a few for you:

For some unusual interpretations of those usage stats, take a look at the 8 email statistics to use at parties article.

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