Microsoft announced today that it would stop supporting an Outlook.com feature called linked accounts and push customers toward aliases, which it says is a more secure way of managing multiple email addresses.
“We know there are lots of good reasons to have multiple email addresses,” Microsoft’s Eric Doerr explains in a post to the Outlook Blog. “We also believe it's important to provide a more robust, secure and durable solution to meet your needs.”
This change was a long time coming. When Microsoft introduced two-step authentication for the Microsoft accounts that sit behind users’ Outlook.com email addresses two months ago, it required those users to first unlink any linked account. But going forward, even those Outlook.com users that don’t use two-step authentication will be denied this capability.
I wrote about linked accounts last year in Outlook.com Tip: Link Microsoft Accounts, noting that the ability to link these accounts meant you could switch from account to account in the Outlook.com web interface only without having to sign out and sign in repeatedly.
Today, a single Microsoft account is vastly preferable to maintaining multiple accounts: It’s your digital identity online, unlocking, as Doerr writes, “a broad array of experiences ranging from Windows to Xbox to Office365 to Outlook.com and more.” What most consumers need is a single Microsoft account that that connects them with all of their email, calendars, contacts, files, photos, and other data, as well as their social networks.
For those who require multiple email accounts, Microsoft recommends using aliases going forward. Aliases “make it easy to have multiple email addresses (for receiving and sending) connected to a single Microsoft account,” as Doerr notes. You can learn more in Outlook.com Tip: Use Email Aliases.
But of course many people already have multiple accounts. For those folks, the firm has added two features to Outlook.com that will make the transition from linked accounts easier. These are:
Mail Forwarding. Microsoft says “you can now forward all email from a secondary account to your primary. It's easy to set up a folder structure to keep email as separate as you like.” Actually, you could already do this, and I’ve been doing so for years, so I’m not clear on what’s new. I wrote about this last year, but also more recently in Outlook.com Tip: Send Email from Another Account.
Send email from another account. As the previous link suggests, I covered this last year as well. But Microsoft says “you can now configure a secondary account as a ‘send-only’ address. When combined with email forwarding, it means you can both receive and send email from that email address, all within your primary Microsoft account.”
Microsoft says it is also working on a “move an alias” feature that would let users “move the email address and email from one account to another.”
Microsoft will begin unlinked linked Microsoft accounts in July. If you’re feeling proactive, you can use this quick link to access the Outlook.com Managed Linked Accounts interface and unlink any currently-linked accounts yourself. Then, set up email forwarding and aliases as needed using my articles linked above.