Two years after it discontinued its Windows Live Domains service, Microsoft is testing a premium version of Outlook.com that could once again support custom domains. This means you could soon be able to use Outlook.com with your own domain name—like Thurrott.com or whatever—instead of being forced to use a Microsoft domain name like Outlook.com or Hotmail.com.
News of Outlook.com Premium, as the coming service is called, comes courtesy of ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, who first reported on this very welcome development earlier today. The bad news? It’s not clear if or when Microsoft will actually launch an Outlook.com Premium offering.
“Outlook.com Premium is not an existing offering, it is an experiment that we are piloting,” Microsoft told Ms. Foley. “We’re always investigating new features based on the wants and needs of our users, and we have nothing more to share at this time.”
Well, nothing more except this.
“We are evaluating interest in custom domains for Outlook.com,” the same spokesperson added. “At this time, we are testing with a limited number of users in the United States and will evaluate the experience over time. The previous program required the user to manage the process of purchasing a domain. We are evaluating the appeal of custom domains but with Microsoft managing the processes of procuring the domain.”
This is big news. My own domain—Thurrott.com—is currently on Google Apps because Microsoft canceled Windows Live Domains, and I already have a separate domain on Office 365. If Microsoft were to offer Outlook.com Premium and/or Microsoft-managed domain support for Outlook.com, I would switch the domain back.
Based on a support page for Outlook.com Premium, the new service will/could let you use a personalized email address (e.g. a custom domain), as expected, and connect your other email accounts so you only have one interface to worry about. Those with Office 365 Home would be able to invite up to four other individuals to create personalized email addresses as well. (The limit would remain at 5 users total.) Microsoft has partnered with GoDaddy to manage personalized email addresses.
In related news, Microsoft just took the preview tag off the new Outlook.com web experience, though few users have actually been migrated so far. From what I can tell, the new UX looks pretty great, and makes Outlook.com look and feel more similar to Microsoft’s business-focused Office 365 web experiences. You can find out more about the new Outlook.com on the Microsoft web site.