Look at it. See the little "H" swooping off to the side? See the animated globe, and the postage stamp? It really does give off a certain promise of something bold, and something new.
Lets put it into context. On the 4th July 1996, when hotmail was launched, both Internet Explorer and Netscape were only on version 2.0, with little to no support for CSS and HTML was still in its infancy. Sites were generally pretty ugly. There was no such thing as Flash, and using animated gif's was the only way one would be able to accomplish something new.
The logo it full of design clichés, allow me to point them out:
- The globe. Remember the Netscape N on top of the earth with the asteroids shooting down in the background? Or, Internet Explorer with its animated world changing into an "e"? The globe was the obvious design cliché for the idea of international communication, and the information super highway as a concept.
- The postage stamp. What else would you use to explain something that had moved from the physical world, into the digital realm, other than the fray of a postage stamp.
- Lowercase lettering. I noticed this trend in 1996 while in my first job as a junior designer. The choice of all lower case letters seemed to be a silicon valley thing. Almost as though the designer and company were saying, we're a new start up, and haven't rolled out our first version yet.