AOL Announces Project Phoenix, a New Webmail Client

On the eve of Facebook's rumored announcement of a Facebook Webmail product, AOL announced an attempt to rise its email product from the ashes of AOL'e email, which is seeing its user base rapidly decline: Project Phoenix.

Project Phoenix can be accessed at It is invite only, at least for now.

It's hard to see how a Webmail refresh can stem the tide of those leaving AOL's email service. Business Insider's chart on the decline and fall of AOL's email shows the service has fallen below MySpace Mail, way down the list.

Additionally, and worse news for AOL, AOL Mail provides 45 percent of the page views on the AOL network. Thus, it is obvious that AOL needs to halt the decline of its email users.

While speed and integration with social networking sites are the keys to Project Phoenix, Fortune also notes the follow changes:
  • Aggregation of Aol, Yahoo, Gmail, Comcast, and other email accounts into one inbox a la iOS.
  • A "Quick Bar" or shortcut bar above the inbox with short email, IM, text, Facebook and Twitter status update capabilities.
  • Three inbox views -- "expanded," which allows viewing of the first few lines of each email, "compact" (think traditional), and and the Entourage-like "reading pane."
  • Web browser-like tabs for switching between user inbox and messages.
  • A Mapquest sidebar adjacent to the email body that automatically detects addresses listed in open emails and offers directions
  • A photo sidebar that aggregates photo attachments.
  • New optional email domain names.
Here's the full AOL press release on Project Phoenix:
AOL Disrupts the Inbox with Project Phoenix by AOL Mail

PALO ALTO, Calif., Nov 14, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- On the heels of the launch of the new and several new local content initiatives, AOL Inc. today unveiled a preview of the new AOL Mail, code-named Project Phoenix. This is a major milestone in AOL's overall efforts to reinvent its products and deliver on its commitment to provide the best consumer experiences on the Internet. Phoenix was designed and built from the ground up as an innovative and intuitive email solution that fits the way consumers communicate today. AOL Mail remains an important part of AOL's business; in fact it represents 45 percent of the page views on the AOL network today.

"Email remains one of the most vital communication tools despite all of the new sites and apps available to consumers today," said Brad Garlinghouse, President of AOL's Consumer Applications Group. "There is still so much innovation to be done in the space and Project Phoenix is just the beginning. We see a huge opportunity to disrupt email in a big way. AOL is the company that brought everyone online, and now we're making it simpler and more enjoyable to be there."

Project Phoenix is a fast and fresh new experience. Users will notice a streamlined design that is both visually appealing and intuitive in nature. Other notable features of Project Phoenix include:
  • Quick Bar - makes it easy to quickly send emails, instant or text messages and even update Facebook and Twitter via Lifestream directly from the inbox.
  • Smart View - prominently displays important information like maps, attached photos and files, and conversation threads on the right hand side of the inbox so users can see relevant details and files before they even open a message.
  • Email aggregation - makes it is easy to receive and send messages from almost any provider, including GMail, Yahoo! Mail, and Hotmail, right inside your AOL inbox.
  • Single-click search - makes it easy to search across any folder and all email accounts and instantly refine the search by clicking simple options that appear dynamically next to the search results.
  • Free access to premium service - includes customer support for each email account along with unlimited storage, a choice of POP or IMAP email service, and support for email attachments of up to 25MB.
In conjunction with the preview, AOL will offer consumers the opportunity to get the email address of their choice by offering more options for name structures and new domains like, and The full product will be released early next year, but interested users can sign up to request an invitation to the beta today.

For more information about Project Phoenix go to
Tags:  AOL, Facebook, Gmail