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AOL "Project Phoenix" Email Hub Goes Live

Illustration for article titled AOL Project Phoenix Email Hub Goes Live

Those @aol.com email domain names? With apologies to dad, total jokes! AOL hopes to change that however, and it started today with an attempt to, hrm, freshen up its fledgling brand. Meet Project Phoenix!

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Yes, Phoenix, as in the flaming mythological bird that was reborn from its own ashes. How apt.

The rollout is currently in a limited beta, but CNET has graciously detailed what those beta users are currently experiencing in their web browsers right this second:

It looks a lot like Gmail's interface, with a few extra bells and whistles. There's a "quick bar" at the top for sending short e-mails, instant messages (which pop up in very Google Chat-like windows), and text messages. A side bar of "smart view" content previews attached files and maps of locations detailed in the message (AOL representatives assured that these previews only show up from confirmed contacts, so there's no chance of porn spam making mischief here). Messages open in a tabbed interface for easy flipping between messages and the main in-box.

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As a hub, Phoenix allows users to link together email inboxes from Gmail and Hotmail, as well as direct messaging services found in Facebook (although that feature is not yet available).

Perhaps the best news, at least for embarrassed @aol.com users, is the hub includes ygm.com ("you've got mail"), love.com, wow.com, and games.com domains for users to choose from. Kidding aside, AOL disclosed to CNET that fully 45% of their traffic comes from the aol.com accounts. Public image aside, that's actually not too shabby!

The Sunday timing is probably more than a coincidence too. Just this week, if you'll remember, we brought you news of Facebook's looming email-related announcement, and why it could mean users will dump Gmail for something a bit more social. [CNET]

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DISCUSSION

deerseason
deerseason

People who have AOL now stick with it because they're the kind of people who don't want anything extra from their web experiences... my fiancee's parents are like this. They don't like browsers. If given the choice, they would probably stick with the old AOL email interface.

Meanwhile, people who have since migrated will not leave their gmail or other service (even yahoo or hotmal, both of whose email revamps already happened); they already know the stigma having an aol.com email carries.

Only two types of users would consider this new aol:

1) New users, like tweens and teenagers, who might be intrigued by having a "fun" email domain like games.com . I remember signing up for a "XXXXX@pcsrock.com" email address in middle school.

2) AOL users who were on the verge of leaving for greener pastures in gmail or yahoo, but were reluctant to leave their old email addresses behind; they can see the new AOL and decide to stick around.

Either way, that's only a small handful of people, and if/when Facebook launches its email service, AOL might end up losing demographic number 1 anyway.