My first e-mail account was with AOL. I admit it. That just means I have been around a few years longer than many of my readers. Like many folks, I actually still have an AOL e-mail, but I never use it for anything. Occasionally I will check it and clean out the spam, but certainly not a priority in-box. For my personal e-mail I use Google and iCloud primarily.
So I was a bit surprised when I learned last week that AOL was introducing a new e-mail solution called Alto. Alto, which launched on October 18 is a complete re-imagination of e-mail. New users can sign up for an invitation at www.altomail.com.
“People need a new email address like they need a hole in the head,” David Temkin, AOL’s senior vice president of mail and mobile, told CNNMoney in an interview. “What they need is an email service that addresses the way we use email today.” “Email hasn’t had a serious rethink really since Gmail came out,” says Temkin. “We wanted to take a swing at that and not be tethered by the existing 20 million or so people using AOL Mail. The idea was to create without scrutiny and questioning.”
To AOL’s product team, that meant focusing on two key points: quick organization, and a stylish, ad-free design that Temkin said was “created with the iPad in mind.”
Check out some of the images from Alto:
Alto’s uses “Stacks,” a system for sorting incoming emails. The tool works like a filter — automatically pulling in emails based on sender, recipient, keywords, etc. — and places messages in icons that appear in the inbox view. New stacks are created by dragging and dropping emails. Alto also creates some stacks automatically: Photos, for emails with any in-line or attached images (excluding newsletters); Attachments, which lets users preview thumbnails or view documents without opening a new program; Social Notifications, for sites like Facebook (FB)or Twitter; and Daily Deals, which includes coupon emails from sites like Groupon (GRPN) as well as retailer newsletters.
Other cool stack features include a visual analytics display. Alto analyzes the emails categorized into a given stack for the last 30 days: how many messages were received and sent, how many went unread, and how many came from each sender. Also, stacks can swap places based on which have received new emails — or users can “pin” stacks to keep them in their place.
Alto’s search capabilities let users look for contacts or keywords across all synced email accounts. Clicking on a contact’s name pulls up a slew of information from email and social accounts: recent messages, the stacks with which that person is associated and their general contact information. If you link up your social media accounts, Alto will also drops in links to your contacts’ accounts on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (LNKD).
I have signed up for the beta. Could it be that “I’ve got Mail”?
Much of the content for this article was sourced from Fast Company, still my favorite magazine. www.fastcompany.com