Simon Willison’s Weblog

Downloading your hotmail inbox

Adrian just pointed me to a fantastic tool: Gotmail, a utility to download mail from Hotmail accounts. It’s a command line utitlity, written in Perl and making use of the curl binary, which can connect to Hotmail over the web and grab any new emails, saving them locally as an mbox file and deleting them from the Hotmail server.

Naturally, anything like this is completely dependent on Hotmail’s design staying the same and maintaining the tool is a constant arms race. At the moment, Hotmail is ahead—a recent upgrade to the Hotmail design (some time in the last few days) has rendered Gotmail useless. A call for help on the Gotmail mailing list from the lead developer makes particularly interesting reading. He’s looking for developers and users who can help with the debugging effort required to get the tool working again, but the last paragraph of the email really caught my attention:

Developers: If you have some Python proficiency, and would like to assist in developing the next generation of Gotmail (development name: gotfemail), email me off-list. I have some pretty ambitious plans for this project, and depending on how much is actually implemented, Hotmail breakages should be either self-fixing or very simple to fix. I’ve done some work on making a generic library for this sort of job (so the fetchyahoo people and others might be interested), and some preliminary work on embedding the Javascript interpreter from the Mozilla project.

A self-fixing screen scraper sounds like one heck of an interesting project, and I can’t complain about the choice of development language either ;) If you’re a Python hacker looking for a new project this could be well worth checking out.

This is Downloading your hotmail inbox by Simon Willison, posted on 2nd December 2003.

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