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
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
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.