Calendar sharing suddenly discontinued in Outlook.com

, 5 minutes to read

Cal­en­dar shar­ing is no longer sup­ported in Out­look.com. It started as an up­grade and tem­po­rally break, but half a year later, af­ter con­tact­ing a Mi­crosoft sup­port, noth­ing has solved and the loss of cal­endar shar­ing seems to be per­ma­nent.

It started qui­etly without any warn­ing from Mi­crosoft side. All cal­en­dars in the Out­look Cal­en­dar app on Win­dows 10 Mo­bile stopped to syn­chro­nize with Out­look.com ser­vice. The rea­son was that bro­ken Mi­crosoft ac­count. The op­er­at­ing sys­tem told that You need to fix your Mi­crosoft Ac­count, but af­ter do­ing that noth­ing happed and ev­ery­thing was still desyn­chro­nized. Few days later the is­sue was solved, but all con­tacts lost pro­file pic­tures.

I have been search­ing what hap­pened. The HoT­MaiL, later knows as MSN Hot­mail, then re­branded to Win­dows Live Hot­mail, then to Win­dows Live Mail and fi­nally to Out­look.com, have been us­ing the largest SQL Server in­s­tance in the world. Re­la­tional databases aren’t de­signed to be scal­able. In May 2015, Mi­crosoft an­nounced it would move the ser­vice to an Of­fice 365-based in­fras­truc­ture.

The prob­lems with shared cal­en­dars sync­ing were ex­pected, but no one bothered to in­form end users. The in­ter­rup­tion was ex­pected to hap­pen dur­ing up­grade pro­cess only. The shar­ing should be work­ing again when all users will be mi­grated. But it did not hap­pen.

The desk­top Out­look can com­mu­ni­cate with the server with at least 4 pro­to­cols. The first is POP/SMTP, the sec­ond IMAP/SMTP, the third is Ex­change Ac­tiveSync and the fourth is Mi­crosoft Ex­change. The first two op­tions, POP, IMAP and SMTP, are very known and clear. I don’t know the tech­ni­cal dif­fer­ence be­tween Ex­change Ac­tiveSync and Mi­crosoft Ex­change, but the Ex­change Ac­tiveSync was used by Out­look.com be­fore the up­grade and the end­point was eas.out­look.com. The Mi­crosoft Ex­change is used by Of­fice 365 and so by Out­look.com af­ter the up­grade. Mi­crosoft was send­ing emails to users con­nected by the Ex­change Ac­tiveSync they need to re­con­nect to Mi­crosoft Ex­change. This is triv­ial task and I did it as soon as I no­ticed my ac­count been up­graded.

Af­ter I re­con­nected to the new pro­to­col I wasn’t able to edit shared cal­en­dars. Even when I cre­ated a new cal­en­dar and shared it to other al­ready up­graded users, it did not solve any­thing. The shared cal­en­dar was read only for any­one but the owner in Out­look 2016 ver­sion 1701 build 7766.2060 for desk­top PC. Edit­ing the cal­en­dar was pos­si­ble only via web browser. The Out­look Cal­en­dar app for Win­dows 10 Mo­bile ver­sion 1607 build 10.0.14393.693 is un­able to save events to the shared cal­en­dar. It pre­tends to work, but the event is never shown in the Out­look.com cal­en­dar.

I have con­tacted the Mi­crosoft sup­port to solve the prob­lem or warn about an is­sue (case num­ber 1367529784). At the start form, there is a state­ment: The more you write, the more we'll be able to help. That’s good, but the text area has a very low limit of the text length so I wasn’t able to pre­cisely de­scribe my prob­lem. When I reached a very kind per­son from the sup­port, I had to ex­plain ev­ery­thing again, be­cause he didn’t re­ceive the de­scrip­tion of the prob­lem I wrote ear­lier. I spent one hour by de­scrib­ing a demon­s­trat­ing the dys­func­tion­al­ity and the re­sult was sim­ple. The of­fi­cial Mi­crosoft so­lu­tion is to down­grade back to the eas.out­look.com and use Ex­change Ac­tiveSync again. When I ex­plained that this pro­to­col is go­ing to be dis­con­tin­ued soon I was re­as­sured that this is­sue will be re­ported in­ter­nally to the prod­uct group. Few months later the Ex­change Ac­tiveSync was re­ally dis­con­tin­ued, but the shared cal­en­dar is still in read only mode re­gard­less my ef­fort make it work again.

I would ex­pect that Mi­crosoft will be clear about this is­sue and tell when the mi­gra­tion will be fi­nally done and what should be still work­ing and what is not ex­pected to work any­more. In­stead, the Out­look team is fo­cus­ing more on Mac and Google users.