If you have been around since the advent of webmail, you know about the “You’ve Got Mail!” slogan from AOL. One of the first webmail sites it took the world by storm. Millions of users signed up for AOL Webmail (whether they wanted to or not) and it looked like there was no looking back for AOL. Hotmail also had its fair share of users as well. Fast forward to 2004, GMail is introduced. Since then we haven’t heard a peep out of AOL and Google’s GMail service has become the defacto standard for webmail since then. But now AOL is back. With a bang!
AOL today announced Alto, a web-based IMAP email client that lets you manage multiple email accounts on one website. “We found that nobody wants another email address,” Senior Director of Product for AOL Mail and Alto Joshua Ramirez told The Verge. “People have multiple email addresses, and they want to get it in one spot, so we went back to the drawing board and came up with something we think is game-changing.” The web app is available today by invite only, and will launch to the general public in the first quarter of 2013.
Alto looks and works like most email clients you’ve used, but was born with one priority in mind: get rid of all the detritus clogging your inbox and divide it into “Stacks”. Alto automatically creates stacks for daily deal emails (Groupon), retail emails (Best Buy) and social networking site notifications (Facebook) — three of the most common culprits of messy inboxes. You can also create stacks of your own, which function like Gmail folders that pipe in messages from certain senders. When you click a stack, you see one of three views: message view, tile view, or page view. Message view looks like Sparrow, but adds a unique pie chart to show where the bulk of the messages in that stack are coming from. Tile view creates a grid of messages, each message symbolized by the image in each message (which works well for browsing Groupon or LivingSocial offers). Page view is designed for flipping through your daily deals emails in full-screen as if they were old Sunday Best Buy ad books, Ramirez says.
Whether Alto will take off as well as AOL Webmail remains to be seen. But it is definitely a refreshing take on webmail. Furthermore throwbacks are currently in style. So, here’s hoping for a resurrection of the “You’ve Got Mail!” slogan once again.