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Outlook Internet calendar subscribers, bad news: Reports indicate subscription feature's best days are over

Outlook on Android
Outlook on Android (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Outlook has given users the ability to subscribe to external calendars and stay up to date via synchronized online calendar perusing.
  • The ability to subscribe to external calendars and stay synced appears to be disappearing, according to multiple user reports.
  • A Microsoft support thread confirmed the feature is being deprecated.

Update October 14, 2021 at 4:20 p.m. ET: In one of the Microsoft Community threads (opens in new tab) referenced in the original article, a Microsoft employee has now stated that these calendar issues are being investigated and that "Outlook has no plans to deprecate its support for .ics/ical calendars, holidays, and professional sports team schedules."

If you're a big fan of Outlook's online, external calendar subscription feature that enables you to stay effortlessly synchronized with someone else's calendar, bad news: You'll now have to settle for calendar importation, as subscribing's best days are over.

This development came to light as a result of multiple Microsoft Community posts reporting that calendar subscriptions were no longer working as intended, which were spotted by Dirk Hoffmann (via WinFuture). Across the posts, one managed to net an actual confirmation (opens in new tab) from a Microsoft agent. It goes as follows: "It has been confirmed that the calendar can no longer be subscribed. At this point, we would recommend that you import the calendar as follows instead."

The Microsoft agent then outlined how to import a calendar, which, as one can imagine, is not what the affected users in the forum cared about.

English language Microsoft forums report the same situation (opens in new tab), signaling that Microsoft appears to have given the subscription feature the deprecation treatment.

There's no statement on why this is happening, and outside of a Microsoft agent's confirmation, there aren't any official blog posts or news blasts indicating that it is happening in the first place, though lots of user reports are bringing that fact to light in the meantime. Whether the situation is all a big misunderstanding or something equally peculiar that results in the feature being properly re-implemented remains to be seen, but based on the currently available information, it appears Outlook calendar subscribers are out of luck.

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to robert.carnevale@futurenet.com.

21 Comments
  • I wonder if this explains why my Google Calendar stopped showing in my Outlook widget. Grrrr...
  • Same here. Can't see family calendar any more.
  • "deprecated" Spell check is our friend...
  • Feature is being deprecated, while Outlook itself will depreciate...
  • Thank you for your understanding, waqqas.
  • No speller checker is catching that; the two words are synonymous in 99% of contexts and are separated by one letter. But I've changed it for you, Clancy. You've been heard.
  • There is a reason I run my own cloud services. I don't have to put up with these changes.
  • So you run your own Outlook equivalent cloud service? That's cool. Can you tell me how someone else would do that? Because if not, I'm not sure how you running your own "cloud services" would change Microsoft removing a feature from a mail client...
  • Well, just have to import the Lakers Schedule Calendar manually.
  • I don't understand what this is referring to. Is this just calendars of interest, like sports teams' game schedules? Or is it more broadly the ability to co-edit other people's calendars? E. G. Family members.
  • It's subscribing to a calendar that others own -- or as Microsoft calls them "event organizers" -- where if the calendar owner/event organizer makes changes or adds events, deletes events, etc. those would appear on the calendar of anyone that subscribed to it. Think teachers and coaches who have a calendar and share them with their students and players and parents for practices, games, classroom and school events, etc. This is a typical Microsoft flip-the-bird-to-the-consumer move where they've killed a feature with zero notice out of the blue and one that Google has working flawlessly. For someone in the Microsoft ecosystem like myself and most here, it's tremendously frustrating as I'm a big user of this with kids' coaches and teachers as I mentioned above so I no longer see the changes to games and practices and their events. They've just kind of floated it out there months ago like some half-ass start-up business. Zero communication about it too and even all of Microsoft's consumer facing instructional material still shows this as an active feature! Unbelievably frustrating! The post linked from the story above sums it up quite well here. In a nutshell, the poster mentions: "Microsoft instructional documentation is not up-to-date even though your support is telling me that subscribed ics / iCal calendars are no longer a feature of outlook.com. And in Outlook.com, when going to Calendar - Add calendar - Subscribe from web it clearly states, "Paste the url for the calendar you would like to subscribe to below. Any edits that the author of the calendar makes will be updated automatically" Full disclaimer, the original poster on the Outlook.com forums mentioned in the story is me :) Happened to see this story just now when the headline sounded quite familiar. Thanks to Windows Weekly for bringing light to this. Let's hope Microsoft revisits this one! Did I mention it still works flawlessly for those with a paid Microsoft 365 business account? Go figure! But "One Outlook" is on the way they say. Right, more like "One Outlook as fragmented as ever and then some ..."
  • Thank you for the explanation and for raising this issue. Your last paragraph implies that they're pushing everyone to a paid service, but for consumers, this will just push them to Google who offer this service for free. Mad.
  • “This is a typical Microsoft flip-the-bird-to-the-consumer move where they've killed a feature with zero notice out of the blue and one that Google has working flawlessly.” Why does anyone STILL believe at this late date, that MS cares anything about consumers? If businesses were using this feature, it would maintained and expanded. If you want consumer functionality, then you should not be looking at Microsoft.
  • This does seem like a weird feature to get rid of, I don't have the numbers but I'd think this would be a pretty widely used feature. I know I use it to sync work calendars to my personal ethic is helpful to not have to look at multiple calendars.
  • Dang, I actually used this for my favorite sports teams. Really bummed about this. But I guess learning to import a calendar is just as easy 🙄
  • Importing is not the same. That's a one-time feature. Subscribed means you are up to date at all times even when the event organizer deletes an event, adds an event, updates an event time, etc. See the use-cases mentioned above by myself and many other users. For me it's kids sports and hobbies and classes where coaches or teachers will add and edit practice times game events on a nearly daily basis and that I no longer see.
  • This will make me reconsider Outlook completely as subscribed calendars provide a very convenient service. If MSFT are going to put a price on this then there are always other options. That in itself will have me looking beyond calendars and into platforms. Why does MSFT do such silly things?
  • Microsoft broke my Outlook for Android ability to send emails using my email provider. And then the whole "Your Calendar" mess. I couldn't create or edit them using my desktop Outlook program on the PC. I've now removed the Outlook for Android and replaced with Google Calendar app (which works with "your Family" so far, and Samsung mail app. I tried several replacement calendars and was surprised that I really like the Google Calendar the best. Cute AND functional and I can UPDATE the calendar which I couldn't do with the Outlook for Android app if the event was in "Your family". I may eventually just move all the calendar services to Google too. And this from someone who has been doing Microsoft Windows programming professionally since Windows 3.1. I also got burned by buying into Microsoft Silverlight development. It was the BEST development environment I ever used and should have been how web was done in the first place, but oh well, screw me. And don't even get me talking about my wonderful Windows phones that now are useless.
  • I still see the Patriots games appearing on my Outlook calendar. Is that just because it was there before this change?
  • The only reason I subscribe to Office is for Outlook, so with Outlook going away, I'm almost certainly going to drop that subscription. I'm already forcing people to move stuff over to Google Docs for work stuff, here. I just have to move some logins over and then I can drop the Microsoft account entirely. I've always kept a copy of WordPerfect Office as a backup :-)
  • Bear in mind I wouldn't have even bothered with the subscription if Microsoft had stock PIM apps as good as Apple as in macOS. I never bothered using Outlook on macOS. I've always just forwarded my mail to iCloud and had iCloud put it automatically in an Outlook.com folder there, so that I didn't have to install redundant apps on my Mac, iPhone, iPad, etc. I do the same thing with Gmail, which I only keep active to not lose all of my Android store purchases - for the 10th time - should I decide to buy anotehr Android phone in the future. Hardly anything goes there, though.