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AOL Trying to Rise from the Ashes with Facelift and Access to Multiple Email Accounts

AOL is working to resurrect its brand.

By Howie Fenton
Published: November 15, 2010

AOL is working to resurrect its brand. Despite having helped introduce e-mail to the masses in the 1990s, AOL has been steadily losing users and market share in the e-mail space. AOL now has a meager 30.8 million e-mail users, compared with Microsoft (361 million global users), Yahoo (273 million), and Google  (193 million). AOL’s new site is offering faster video and the promise of aggregating multiple e-mail accounts onto one site. AOL is trying to reverse a slide that began nearly 10 years ago shortly after being acquired by Time Warner. AOL recently become an independent company again, and has tried to make a comeback, but this will be an uphill battle.

Since Google first introduced Gmail back in 2004, it's groundbreaking and frequently updated feature set has been stealing market share from other providers. Google’s web-based e-mail service offers: increased storage space, a web-based mobile app, Google Chat and many cool features. All other e-mail players have been scrambling to catch up:, Microsoft introduced the Windows Live Hotmail "Wave 4" update last May, and Yahoo has been talking about new Yahoo Mail features and now, it's AOL's turn.

Not unlike Google’s News feature content, the new AOL homepage will change throughout the day. This "day-part programming," as AOL calls it, will provide break-downs of the most important news for morning, midday, and evening. AOL’s new "The Light Box" feature is a faster in-page video player featuring content from AOL and its partners. Similar to the organization of the popular newspapers, the content will be delivered in the chunks such as latest headlines, local news, daily buzz and video features.

Like the legendary bird, AOL wants to rise  from the ashes and become the e-mail leader again with their 'Project Phoenix,' a web-based client built from scratch. Project Phoenix features a number of other upgrades that make it more of a central hub for communicating online. Users of AOL’s new e-mail, available by invitation only here, can pull in messages from Yahoo Mail, Google’s Gmail and Microsoft’s Hotmail, among others, through a simple sign-in process. E-mails from those services then automatically appear in a unified Project Phoenix inbox, although users can also choose to view messages from just one address at a time.

The greatest problem, however, is that Project Phoenix cannot access e-mail from Microsoft Exchange Server – which is the main corporate e-mail system – nor is it compatible with messages sent via Facebook’s existing message service or Twitter. They all may be integrated later, according to AOL.

E-mail Aggregating

As someone who has a company e-mail account and a personal e-mail account the idea of having one site to log into that can show both has merit. If we avoid the controversy of AOL as an e-mail provider, or the lack of integration with Microsoft Exchange Server what do you think about the idea of aggregating multiple e-mail accounts onto one site?

Personally I would love to have one place to log into that could gather all e-mail, but what do you think? Would you use a site that could aggregate multiple e-mail accounts onto one site?

Howard Fenton is a Senior Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research.

Howie Fenton is InfoTrends' Associate Director of Operational Consulting. For over 25 years, he has focused on benchmarking operational and financial performance in in-plants and commercial printers. He can be reached via e-mail at Howie.Fenton@infotrends.com.

 

Discussion

By Tamer Aydogdu on Nov 15, 2010

AOL was not acquired by Time Warner. Actually AOL itself acquired Time Warner.

 

By Howie Fenton on Nov 15, 2010

Your absolutely right Tamer. I went back and found this announcement on CNN Money posted on 1/1/0200. After the decline in users, I bet I am not the only person who wanted to blocked this out.

In a stunning development, America Online Inc. announced plans to acquire Time Warner Inc. for roughly $182 billion in stock and debt Monday, creating a digital media powerhouse with the potential to reach every American in one form or another.With dominating positions in the music, publishing, news, entertainment, cable and Internet industries, the combined company, called AOL Time Warner, will boast unrivaled assets among other media and online companies. The merger, the largest deal in history, combines the nation’s top internet service provider with the world’s top media conglomerate. The deal also validates the Internet’s role as a leader in the new world economy, while redefining what the next generation of digital-based leaders will look like.

 

By Chuck on Nov 16, 2010

AOL is not the same AOL that bought Time Warner all so long ago. They ditched legacy assets, spun out and went public.

They've been buying up media properties like the very popular tech blogs TechCrunch and earlier, engadget. And to their credit, they've done a good job leaving them alone. So far.

I think the AOL email thing is interesting, but the Facebook messaging platform announcements yesterday are far more exciting and will have a much more important impact.

Personally, to this day, when I see someone with an @aol.com suffix on their email, I'm pretty sure they still have the training wheels on their Internet. And that stigma is not going to go away.

It's kind of a tainted brand that's going to take a lot of work to turn into something new.

 

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