Microsoft began alerting Outlook Express users that it will no longer support accessing the Hotmail Web-based email service from the application. Instead, the company is directing users to its free Windows Live Mail application, which offers substantial functional and security improvements over Outlook Express as well.

"As of June 30, 2008, you will no longer be able to access your Hotmail inbox via Outlook Express," an email letter to Outlook Express users reads. The letter goes on to explain that Outlook Express accesses Hotmail via a legacy technology called DAV (Distributed Authoring and Versioning protocol), which is not efficient enough to meet the demands of today's multi-gigabyte inboxes. Microsoft is replacing DAV with a newer technology called DeltaSynch, which is not Outlook Express compatible.

Outlook Express users worried about the shift should understand that Windows Live Mail is a true superset of that earlier email application. Microsoft replaced Outlook Express with Windows Mail in 2006 with the release of Windows Vista, but Windows Live Mail, available as a free download, is a functional replacement of both Outlook Express and Windows Mail. (Microsoft Outlook users can continue to access Hotmail/MSN email via the free Outlook Connector software.)

Windows Live Mail provides a number of useful features in addition to Hotmail Web mail support: It can be configured with multiple email accounts (Hotmail/MSN, POP3, IMAP), offers rich Photo Mail functionality, includes Vista-like Instant Search and security features (including AV scanning, anti-phishing, and anti-spam), supports RSS feed aggregation, and integrates with a variety of Windows Live products and services. You can find out more about Windows Live Mail from the Windows Live Web site.