MSN Messenger and Hotmail top charts

Microsoft Corp.’s free e-mail service MSN Hotmail surpassed the 100 million-user mark, while its instant messenger service maintained its top spot against competitors such as Yahoo Inc. and AOL Time Warner Inc., the software maker said Monday.

MSN Messenger Service recorded 31.9 million unique users worldwide in March, maintaining its lead as the most-used free instant-messaging service, Microsoft said, citing research from Jupiter Media Metrix Inc. It is the second month in a row that Microsoft has beat out AOL’s Instant Messenger and ICQ services and the Yahoo Messenger service for the top spot.

Jupiter’s study was based on unique users in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, Canada, Spain, Brazil, Italy, Argentina and Switzerland, Microsoft said.

The latest figures show a shift in popularity for the one-time underdog. In November 2000, MSN Messenger lagged behind AOL Instant Messenger in terms of U.S. users 21.5 million to 10.3 million, according to Media Metrix. From February to March, the service added 2 million users worldwide.

Hotmail also topped the charts in March, numbers compiled internally by Microsoft, which counted 100 million active e-mail accounts. Since Microsoft acquired Hotmail in 1997, the company said it has increased its user base 10-fold.

Both of the software giant’s Web communication services are available around the world – Hotmail in 10 languages, Messenger in 26 languages. The Spanish-language version of Hotmail has attracted 8 million unique users in March, according to the research firm.

Microsoft in Redmond, Wash., can be reached at Jupiter Media Metrix can be reached online at