AOL gives email a makeover with Alto


AOL announced Thursday the launch of Alto, an email client that gives inboxes a complete overhaul.

Users won't get a new email address, but they will have a new way to view and organize email with a feature called Stacks. Alto currently works with AOL, Gmail, Yahoo and iCloud email addresses, and uses Alto to organize any combination of those accounts.

"We've essentially gone through and we've categorized your email," David Temkin, senior vice president of Mail and Mobile for AOL told CBS News. "Creating stacks for daily deals and social notifications alleviates some of the email fatigue we see."

Stacks are exactly how they sound: They are thumbnails of emails stacked up on top of each other. Once stacks are set up, in theory, the inbox should only have important emails. Some default stacks include daily deals, social notifications and retail newsletters. But users can create custom categories.

The most striking difference between Alto and other email clients is its visual approach to reading mail. If a user sets up a stack for retail newsletter or daily deals, those emails can be browsed visually.

Contacts are also different in Alto. They are more like profile pages that include basic information, but add social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If social networks are connected, that person's status updates and tweets will also appear. Contact cards will also show most recent images and attachments sent via email.

America Online was launched in 1991 - changing its name to AOL in 2006. The Internet service provider was one of the first to offer email for a mass audience. Its well-known message notification, "You've got mail," inspired a 1998 film by the same name. With Alto, it's certainly taking another shot at changing how we connect.

Alto is currently in beta. Users can request an invitation at