AOL’s problem is it largely depends on two declining sources of traffic, people who use AOL to get online and Web-based AOL.com email users.
The numbers seem to show declines in Web-based email aren’t worth fighting. Teens don’t like to use email and older adults check their email in apps on their phones.
Across the entire Internet, Web-based email was up a mere 1% in September 2012 over September 2011. AOL Mail is down 8%. Yahoo Mail is down 16%. Hotmail is down 18%.
But there is one piece of evidence that shows good Web-based email design can still attract new users, if only from other services.
That evidence: Google’s widely-lauded Web-based email product, Gmail, is up 14% year-over-year.
And so, in an effort to recapture some of that audience, AOL has released a new Web-based email app.
It’s called Alto.
It’s not a Web-based email provider. There are no @alto.com email addresses yet.
Alto is an inbox-replacement for your current email address. You can read your Gmail and Yahoo Mail there. You can also import Facebook and Twitter content.
If Alto works, it could solve one of AOL’s biggest problems: attracting new users on the Web.
So, does it work? We spent an afternoon with it and would love to show you around the product.
Alto works with AOL mail, Gmail, Yahoo mail, and iCloud. The first step is picking which one you use.
After a tiny amount of set-up (connecting Facebook and Google), it's time to check out the Alto inbox…
I'm in on Alto.
I've already removed the link to Gmail from my bookmarks bar in my browser, and have replaced it with Alto.
What I like most about it is how I can filter certain kinds of email out of my inbox, but still keep tabs of them in a fairly painless way. Also, the fonts are big and handsome and the UI just feels fun. I'm up for something new.
I won't be using Alto for my work email. I have a system for work email, and there's too much riding on seeing and acting on important emails for it to be worth risking screwing that up.
Taking a step back, Alto is the first wonderful new thing out of AOL in years, and it's very nice to see.
Webmail usage is declining for everyone, but maybe Alto can stem the tide for AOL for a bit.