AOL (NYSE:AOL) wants to be your digital postman. Again.

The company best known for the refrain "You've Got Mail" -- so popular that producers adopted the name for a 1998 romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks -- has introduced a self-organizing email app in limited release. Those who have access as of this writing can sign in with an existing AOL email account or any of a number of other cloud-accessible services from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL), or Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO).

Aol

Source: AOL.


Alto's purported innovation is organizing email into "stacks" of common content. Not that the system lacks an inbox. Rather, the main screen is divided in two, with the left side resembling a Twitter feed, and the right screenshots of "stacks" of mail that share an attribute, such as sender or domain. Default stacks include daily deals, social notifications, retail, photos, and attachments.

Though the look is certainly different, the 'stacks' concept isn't necessarily new. Gmail uses patterns to determine when messages are 'important' and creates a custom tab for organizing them. And Yahoo! Mail has Organizer, which sweeps messages into folders automatically. Organizer also uses similar defaults to Alto when self-selecting new folders.

And yet, David Temkin insists there are differences. AOL's senior vice president of mobile and mail told Fast Company, which broke the news, that Alto's Twitter-like interface was built to "attract people from across a coffee shop" as it boosts productivity. Whether users come to appreciate the intended nuance is a question only time can answer.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home, portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.