Microsoft's terrific webmail beta just got even better with the latest iteration, which is being rolled out in stages to the millions of Windows Live Mail beta users. The two biggest changes: Microsoft's decision to return to the familiar Hotmail name, and the ability to initiate a Live Messenger session with any other contacts while Live Messenger is running. This and Windows Live Hotmail's uncluttered, straightforward, and intuitive interface earn the service the Editors' Choice it shares with Yahoo! Mail (beta).
For someone who's not an existing Windows Live Mail user, getting started is simple—especially if you've got accounts with another Microsoft service, including MSN Hotmail, MSN Messenger, or Passport, as well as many of the company's Live services, such as Live.com, Spaces, and Windows Live Search (a favorite formerly known as Windows Live Local). Your existing log-in to any of those services can be used also to set up a Windows Live Hotmail account. For users who don't have preexisting accounts with those services, creating an account is a matter of going through essentially the same steps as with any other free webmail service.