IMPORTANT: Microsoft is replacing Windows Live Messenger with Skype. All your contacts will be moved automatically. Take a look at The Complete Guide to Moving from Messenger to Skype for more information, alternatives and tips.
The new Windows Live Messenger 2012 comes as part of the Windows Live Essentials pack. It's an incremental development over Windows Live Messenger 2011, looking almost identical, while introducing a couple of changes.
When you install Windows Live Messenger, you have the option to install the rest of the Essentials pack, including Mail, Writer, Sync, Companion, Family Safety, Photo Gallery and Movie Maker.
You can choose to connect Windows Live Messenger 2012 to social networks Facebook and LinkedIn, making the app your social hub in Windows, if you want. Facebook is still much easier to use in your browser though, and integration into Windows Live Messenger 2012 is only really useful if your Messenger contacts are still really active and important to you.
The interface is almost unchanged; so if you were unhappy with the changes we saw in 2011, there is nothing here to make you happier! When you open a chat, there is a new Video call icon, and when you receive a video call, there is a new floating window, much like in Skype. A neat feature of this is the option to answer without showing your video feed - we're not always ready for a video call, after all!
Windows Live Messenger 2012 is no revolution, slightly improving on its predecessor. It's still a little bloated, and considering Hotmail's recent transformation to Outlook.com, which features a great messenger service right from your browser, it could be curtains for this venerable application.