find us on facebook! Shutters Free E-mail Service

December 21, 2001 

Managed mobile access provider Visto Corp. Friday closed off its popular and long-standing free e-mail/PIM service leaving some 2.5 million users scrambling for ways to retrieve their e-mail.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company notified its users through a pop-up letter when they logged on that it would suspend its service on December 21.

Visto representatives were not immediately available for an interview and there is no word yet on whether they plan to re-launch the PIM as a subscription-based model or keep it dark altogether.

But even with a two-week notice, the move caught some users by surprise.

"I have been at 'ground zero' of the growing litany of complaints and increasingly desperate pleas for help," says Edwin Hayward who runs, a site that covers the free email sector. "Many of these visitors participate in the discussion forum community at - and a huge number of discussions in the past couple of weeks have focused on Visto, and on trying to find a solution to rescuing e-mail."

Hayward and FastMail.FM director Jeremy Howard say the tone of the discussions between the 250,000 monthly visitors on his site has become increasingly desperate as the deadline approached.

"It seems that not only was there only two weeks' warning but also that their block e-mail forwarding mechanism isn't working correctly - and has not been working correctly for over 2 years," says Hayward.

What was most confusing to both men is that Visto just secured $31 million a month before announcing they were scrapping their free e-mail/PIM service.

At its core, Visto offers corporations a way to provide employees with synchronized access to corporate e-mail, calendar, and contact information over a wide range of PDAs and mobile phones. GE has signed a three-year contract with Visto to deploy the Visto Enterprise Solution (VES) worldwide. Visto also recently announced important strategic relationships with Kyocera, Motorola, QUALCOMM, and Verizon Wireless.

The company has an exclusive relationship with Handspring to provide individual users of Handsprings Treo communicator with remote access to corporate messaging.

The company says the funding will support Visto's growth plans, including sales force expansion, product enhancements, and partnership developments.

But that's small comfort to Visto users stuck in e-mail limbo.

"We have become something of a hub for Visto refugees in the last few days because we are the only provider that have stepped up to try and help people avoid losing all their data," says Howard. "As well as providing a migration tool within 24 hours of the closure announcement, we also worked with and to ensure that information about alternative providers was made available. I'm very sad to see MyVisto go. They were one of the most innovative services just 3 years ago, and I really hoped for more from them than this."

By Michael Singer. Copyright © 2001 INT Media Group, Incorporated

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