Microsoft has begun moving Hotmail users to its Outlook.com domain, displacing Live@edu users' primary log-in and sending administrators scrambling.
Until now, users of Live@edu -- provided free to school students, teachers and staff -- accessed their email accounts via the Outlook.com address.
But those attempting to do so today were served advertisements asking them to instead sign up to the new free email service, "Outlook.com".
"The new Outlook.com email is not Outlook Live email offered to Live@edu customers – it is a completely different service that Microsoft is offering to consumers and has no impact to the Live@edu service," Microsoft said in a blog post.
Microsoft provided little advance warning of the change to Live@edu administrators. Most received an email this morning, an example of which has been sighted by iTnews.
It advised administrators to "update" their Live@edu sign-in URL from Outlook.com to an "Outlook.com/" format.
Live@edu users who logged in through an Outlook.com subdomain would not be subjected to advertisements asking them to sign up for a new, free email account.
A short community notification issued last week advised administrators to make the URL changes but did not mention that the Outlook.com domain would be co-opted for the seperate, Hotmail service.
A Microsoft Australia spokesperson said the company had been "encouraging [customers] to create a CNAME or to redirect sign in to outlook.com/" since July 10.
"Yesterday's [email] communication with our customers was a follow up to our initial outreach," the spokesperson said.
"We take customer communication and education very seriously and have always provided good guidance for Live@edu around configuring the domain namespace."
However, the spokesperson did not address whether Microsoft had specifically communicated why it wanted administrators to make the change - such as a warning that their users would be served advertisements for the new free email service.
Microsoft conceded in a blog post that the situation "might cause some confusion for [Live@edu] users".
Live@edu is used by educational institutions including University of Wollongong, University of Western Sydney and the Redlands Grammar School. The service is to be replaced progressively with Office 365 for education from this month.
Microsoft's Outlook.com free consumer email service is available now under preview. It's the first major change Microsoft has made to its free webmail products in over eight years.
Apart from a new interface and social media integration - including eventually Skype - Microsoft said it wouldn't be scanning email content or attachments to serve targeted advertisements, nor would it "show ads in personal conversations".