Which Email Provider Offers The Best Spam Protection? Study Suggests Hotmail Is

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 14, 2012
Email, Gmail

Spam is one of those things that you never can get rid of completely, it seems. Email providers like Hotmail, Google Mail or Yahoo Mail are battling on the spam front ever since they opened their door for the first users. And while they managed to cut down significantly on spam in past years, there is still work to be done in that compartment. Providers are currently working together to eliminate most of the spam once and for all. Until then though, users will receive spam fairly regularly in their inboxes.

A recent study by Cascade Insights analyzed the spam blocking capabilities of Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and Google Mail. The researchers created email accounts with those services, and one unfiltered account at a web hoster for comparison purposes. The newly created email addresses were then posted on the web to get scraped by spam bots. The researchers furthermore replied to spam email addresses, and created Facebook pages with the email addresses posted openly on the pages.

After some time, the ratio of spam to legitimate emails in the inbox, and not in the spam folder, were analyzed. All unsolicited emails that arrived in the inbox were countered as well.

Microsoft's Hotmail service managed to take the number one spot from Google in a very close finish, followed by Yahoo Mail and the unfiltered email account.

Yahoo Mail's inbox spam percentage was about 10% higher than that of both Hotmail and Gmail. The small difference between Gmail and Hotmail won't likely convince anyone to switch providers. It outlines however that Microsoft managed to improve Hotmail's spam fighting and detection capabilities over the years.

The study does not take into account factors that are beyond its reach. This includes if and how often websites where the email addresses were posted were crawled, or if some email accounts were sold more often than others. These may have influenced the results in one way or the other.

Microsoft was the first company to publish a response. The company attributes the drop in spam on Hotmail to several factors, including the company's SmartScreen technology that has reduced the spam ratio on a typical Hotmail inbox to below 3% according to Microsoft.

Microsoft confirmed in that blog post that customer complains related to spam have dropped by over 40% over the past year, and that the total number of complaints related to spam shrunk by over 50% over the past two years.

Do you have email accounts at one or multiple of the email providers? Do you receive less spam today than in the past?


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  1. Robert Waters said on June 22, 2019 at 11:38 am

    If you use your email address at a site and there’s a data breach, you’re going to get a lot of spam no matter what email provider you use. My main Gmail account has been involved in thirteen of them over the years. I have no complaints about how Gmail handles the huge quantities of spam I get there; it rarely sees my inbox.

    I have a couple of Outlook accounts which admittedly I hardly use. One is a Hotmail account I’ve had since the early Nineties. It’s afloat in spam, and has been since not long after I opened it; all the improved anti-spam measures in the world aren’t going to change that at this late date. But the other two are fine. Admittedly, as I said, I don’t use them much.

    I’m actually using that one Gmail account for things I sign up for online, or when I have to give an email address to somebody who might conceivably have a data breach. I have a paid account I use for personal, private correspondence, although I suspect either a Gmail OR a Hotmail account that I don’t use for online stuff would probably do just as well and remain almost as free of spam.

    The key, I think, is less what service you use than whether you use your address online much. Still, I have to agree that any service that is doing as good a job of keeping the hundreds of spam emails I get every week out of my inbox as Gmail does inspires a lot of confidence and gives everybody else a great deal to prove.

  2. aHuman said on August 16, 2013 at 7:31 am

    I would recommend hotmail. I have both Hotmail and gmail accounts and I virtually get NO spam on both. However, I prefer Hotmail(outlook.com) as it has a better interface

    1. Sourav Dey said on August 16, 2013 at 10:21 am

      Very true.

  3. BlisterSister said on August 3, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Most e-mail service providers are a bunch of double crossing sleaze bags. They provide services that allow spammers to market their interests. Any means employed to generate money is fair game. A hundred e-mail recipients indicating an e-mail address as spam should be enough for service providers to immediately establish server filters to permanently squash, with no possibility of recovery, offenders. Simplistic? Of course. It’s not my area of expertise. But it is the expertise of service providers who pretend to care with an effort of spinning hot air, while still after years of supposed trying, spam still floods our in boxes. Of course money flooding the pockets of service providing execs far out weighs any inconvenience tens of millions of users might have! That is the way things are generally done these days, right?

  4. Ernie said on April 16, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Wrll I have em all but they all suck. Especially Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail. I am slusing Hushmail.com and damn it is the best, easy registration, did not receive a single spam in my inbox, fast, no ads, secure with encryption, it has free version and premium versions.

  5. Sourav Dey said on March 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    This article is appropriate. My inbox is spam free with Hotmail. I’m very satisfied.

  6. Cecil Britton said on February 21, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    I use both Windows Live Hotmail and Gmail too. I can see virtually no difference between the two and they both are used to aggregate the same several email addresses I use. On my desktop computer I have been using the Thunderbird email client for day to day use and have it pulling in the email from the other two webmail clients and from my ISP’s system and it is a total failure at detecting spam, phishing attempts, etc. I am just before switching to Windows Live Hotmail as my day to day email client because so many good improvements have been made to its user interface and it is also good at spam detection. Gmail is good at spam detection but the user interface sucks For those people who complain that they are getting lots of spam via Hotmail I have to believe that they are using something different from my Hotmail or they have some strange setup preferences that are causing the problem.

  7. John Cena said on February 15, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    I think you are MS shill. Everyone knows GMail is best for spam protection. Funny you brought up some douchebag experiments

  8. JMGG said on February 15, 2012 at 3:53 am

    The reason Hotmail has received better spam reviews is they block emails that they deem unworthy of user’s attention. The spam never has a chance to be judged by the user, they just don’t deliver it. Gmail, on the other hand, makes sure all mail gets delivered and it does a good job of marking what is spam as spam and nothing else.

  9. Roman ShaRP said on February 15, 2012 at 12:13 am

    Imho, Google spam protection is pretty good. I have some exposed e-mail accounts, and Google fights spam well.

  10. Jim said on February 14, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    This study tracks with my personal experience. I have a Gmail account which basically goes unused. (Never been a fan, but the account is live.) It gets zero spam, but it’s not really a valid measurement since the account is completely under the radar. Although it is several years old, this is the newest of my accounts
    My Hotmail account, which is very old (pre-MS), gets very little spam. I’d say less than half a dozen a day. Since I have that account set to divert anything not from someone in my contacts or my safe safe list to the spam folder, my inbox remains pristine.
    My Yahoo account is as old as the Hotmail account. Although I have several filters for the most common terms and almost all foreign domains blocked, I still get a couple of dozen spam messages a day, which are almost always caught by their spam detectors and diverted to the spam folder. I say only 1 spam message or so a week makes it to my inbox. So although more spam hits the account, the vast majority stays out of my sight.
    I guess the takeaway from all of this is they have all improved a great deal from the old days.

    1. Robert Waters said on June 22, 2019 at 11:26 am

      I’d consider half a dozen spam emails a day to be a lot.

  11. bastik said on February 14, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    Over 10 years in the past I heard many complains about SPAM on hotmail according to my friends. I use(d) GMX, which got SPAM after I signed up somewhere. A newly created email address (GMX) is SPAM free since then.

    A publicly available address (GMX) gets 1-5 SPAM-mails a year. While another “closed” email (GMX) I use for signing up at sites that require to be logged in, but are not so trustworthy is getting much more SPAM (5-10 per month), but that can/could be controlled by filtering the addresses the mails originate from.

    A GMAIL address is SPAM free since I own it.

    And who wonders why I’m using multiple addresses.. here it is.
    – One private (which I check almost daily)
    – One for anything that requires email and can be spammed (check from time to time)
    – One that is publicly available due to public communication and it got a GPG-key
    – GMAIL for the Google-Account to use G+

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 14, 2012 at 9:38 pm

      I’m also using multiple email addresses, some public like my Ghacks address, others private that I only use for private communication with trusted contacts.

  12. Jojo said on February 14, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Google seems to do an excellent job for me on my Gmail accounts.

    I don’t have any Hotmail accounts and don’t have any interest in obtaining one.

  13. Morely the IT Guy said on February 14, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    This “study” is not credible for a number of reasons.

    1. Who paid for it? Anecdotal evidence indicates that Microsfot funded the study.

    2. The researchers use a trademark that belongs to Hormel without attiribution (“SPAM” in all caps is a trademark), suggesting that they are unaware of the decades-old anti-spam efforts of individuals and organizations, and of Hormel’s gracious permission to use the term “spam” in all lower-case to refer to unwanted junk email and similar Internet garbage.

    3. My wife uses both Hotmail and Gmail. Almost none of the email she gets at Hotmail is “legitimate;” the percentage there is close to 99% spam. Almost none of the email she gets at Gmail is spam; it’s well above 99% legitimate. While my sample is admittedly small, I personally abandoned Hotmail precisely because *all* I ever got there was spam.

    1. Robert Waters said on June 22, 2019 at 11:24 am

      Number one MIGHT be a valid objection; number two is a joke. But again, if every spammer on Earth has been sending mail to your wife’s Hotmail account for years, how is an improved anti-spam system supposed to figure out now all of a sudden that it’s spam?

  14. BERRACO said on February 14, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    This “study” must be a joke. I have 3 gmail accounts for years (since 2005) I registered with this accounts in many places: no more 10 spam emails in received messages. I have 2 accounts in Hotmail service since 2000 year. No much use. Result: THOUNSAND of spam. Actually better but by far of Gmail.

    1. Robert Waters said on June 22, 2019 at 11:21 am

      Except that the study said that the improvement had only occurred in the previous few years. Nobody disputes that Gmail had better spam protection before that time, and you’ve had your Hotmail accounts for five years longer than your Gmail accounts. An awful lot of spammers had your Hotmail accounts on their lists long before the improvement and probably have been sending you spam for years. How is Hotmail supposed to know all of a sudden that it’s spam?

      I’m not saying that the study is right. Only that your experience doesn’t refute it.

  15. Frank said on February 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    I haven’t used my hotmail or yahoo accounts in quite some time but I get 1-2 spam mails through to my inbox in Gmail per year. That’s well less that 1% so IMHO Gmail is the way to go.

  16. Robert Palmar said on February 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    I have Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo mail accounts and
    the results of this study reflect my personal experience.
    For a long time Gmail had an edge but Hotmail has improved.

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