News / AOL Blog

Introducing Alto

Oct 18, 2012

We'd like to introduce you to Alto, a new product from AOL. The premise behind Alto is simple: email has changed massively over the past twenty years, increasing in volume, complexity and frequency, yet the tools for reading email are no longer up to the challenge of organizing the volume of mail most people receive.

AOL introduced mass email to the consumer market but there is no doubt that times have changed since the era of "You've Got Mail", when most of your email came from a small group of trusted sources. Today, email comes in the form of retailer offers, store receipts, daily deals, social notifications, newsletters, work emails, friend emails and, let's not forget, good old spam. Email has changed dramatically since it was first introduced but the tools for reading, accessing and organizing email have not kept pace.

Many of us have multiple email accounts with which we try to manually filter what kind of mail make it to our inbox. Some few of us are "Type A" enough to use folders and labels and stars and archives to keep ourselves organized. But the vast majority of us simply hold onto everything we get and try to scan visually, or perform multiple searches, until we find what we're looking for. We think this is a pretty terrible experience so we built something we think is better – Alto.

Alto is, in essence, a digital manifestation of the process you go through when sorting your physical mail, where you stack your catalogs, your personal mail, your bills and your junk mail. Alto makes "stacks" out of social notifications from Facebook or Twitter, retail emails, daily deals and anything else you want to organize in your email. It's also smart enough to pull out and stack the things you might want to find easily, such as photos and attachments. To summarize, Alto does three really important things:

  1. Makes it easy to find things you're looking for.
  2. Cleans out your inbox so non-critical messages can wait until later without clogging up your message list.
  3. Resurfaces awesome things (like old photos) that you haven't seen in years because they were lost in the midst of all your old emails.

Here are some of the features we think are especially cool:

  • All-in-one - all your email addresses together in one simple app. Login at using a web browser.
  • Smart - Stacks automatically pull out the emails you want and show you information you want see – deal with the non-essential stacks later.
  • Custom stacks – drag any message to create a stack – stacks will automatically pull out old messages as well as the new ones across ALL your accounts and folders.
  • Skip the inbox – send retail offers or daily deals straight into their stacks and keep your inbox clean.
  • Photos – all photos sent and received through any of their email accounts are automatically sorted into a dedicated photo stack. Users can share right from Alto to Facebook or Twitter.
  • People – contacts are made up of anyone to whom you've sent an email. By adding your Linkedin, Twitter and FB credentials, Alto pulls down key information and even shows recent messages, photos, and attachments between you and the contact.
  • Visual Search – Alto gives users a real-time visual search experience, providing a faster and more contextual way to let users find exactly what they need. As users search, they'll see instant results categorized by matching emails, contacts, photos, and attachments.

We've been building Alto for the better part of a year, and we think this is something special. We'd love for you to try it out, and we can't wait for your feedback. Alto is available in an invite-only beta – you can request access at this address:

Many thanks,
The Alto Team