AOL Announces Cloud Email Service

News Article - Friday, 19 October 2012 11:14

By: Kerry Butters Category: Connectivity

AOL are to offer a new, cloud-based email service, which was offered on a limited preview yesterday, that automatically sorts inbox content in order to "help combat inbox fatigue”. The new service doesn’t force users to get a new email address as they can use existing accounts.

Alto is available by invitation only at the moment and is a client that works with all of the popular mail accounts such as Gmail, Yahoo, AOL Mail and .Mac mail accounts. The new mail service works by smartly organising mail received into folders, making for a more organised inbox.

Alto can be used in conjunction with to five separate email accounts at the same time, with users having their mail sorted into different folders and organised in a series of "stacks”, which appear as tiles to the left of the main inbox window.

The stacks sort and store distinct types of messages depending on type, for example photos, attachments, daily deals, social media notifications and retailer email. Users can create different stacks as well as use the default in order to further sort messages. The email client however, is designed to be smart so that it learns the user preferences and understands which messages should be placed in which stack, once a user has started sorting mail themselves.

Important email will be displayed in the inbox, so that users can sort through these quickly and easily without trawling through a load of unimportant mail. Users have a "skip the inbox” feature that will allow the client to further understand where a message should be placed when it arrives in the inbox.

Whilst this may seem like any ordinary inbox filtering, early reports say that it’s the visual aspect that makes Alto special, as users can click on any stack and instantly receive a tiled view of its contents. For example, mail containing photos will be added to the photo stack and when the tile is clicked, the photos are shown in chronological order, or even as a slideshow.

There’s also a social aspect to the client, users can see a profile of the people who have sent them messages which include things like their latest tweets, contact information and friends they have in common.

Alto is currently in private beta and is not expected to publically be available until around the middle of next year so that AOL can iron out any "kinks” in the meantime. However, it is accepting requests in the meantime by invitation only.

It will then be available for free but some reports suggest that AOL will also offer a premium version of the service in order to monetise it. It is designed to work on any "full-sized browser” and there will be an optimised HTML5 version available for the iPad.

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