It’s hard to let go of your roots. For AOL, their status as internet pioneers has proven to be much of their downfall in recent years thanks to an unwillingness to jump when the web said, “jump”, and a recent willingness to jump into things that people really didn’t need them to such as content (Huffington Post and Techcrunch).
Mail has always been an important service for them. They are the parents of “You’ve got mail!” However, people have moved away from their AOL email addresses, few are willing to change to them (or anyone else), and they needed a new direction, so now they’re getting into the email client business with Alto. This simply isn’t going to work. It’s too late.
With Outlook dominating the desktop arena and mobile clients having a foothold on their portion of the industry, Alto has to be pretty darn amazing to make a minor impact. As The Atlantic Wire puts it:
Though it has a nicer overall look than, say, the Outlook web client, none of the reviewers sound too jazzed about it. “There’s no threaded conversation view (a deal-breaker for Alto, but I’m told that it’s coming soon), no mobile site (also coming), and the app is just plain over-styled — from its color palette to the imposing font it uses for senders and email subject lines,” writes Hamburger. “It may not appeal to power users,” added Grober. For starters, all that white space and those oversize fonts mean you see fewer messages per screen than on most e-mail services’ standard interfaces.” But, this thing doesn’t roll out officially until the beginning of 2013, giving AOL plenty of time to make improvements.
AOL mail is dying a slow death. So is the company. Can Alto help to bring them back?