But unlike Phoenix, which merely tweaked the email experience, Alto is a complete reimagination of it. And here's a real shocker: AOL produced Alto through the kind of speedy, agile development process you'd associate with a startup, not a $3 billion corporation that defined web 1.0.
Alto is the product of a deliberate strategy change in the wake of the Phoenix fail. David Temkin, AOL's SVP of mobile and mail, split AOL's email operations into two tracks. One group continued to work on upgrading existing AOL users via incremental improvements that were unveiled this July. The other team, working under the radar even within the company, had license to create a truly disruptive product. "Email hasn't had a serious rethink really since Gmail came out," says Temkin. "We wanted to take a swing at that and not be tethered by the existing 20 million or so people using AOL Mail. The idea was to create without scrutiny and questioning."