In a bid to make its pages stickier to Internet users, AOL today announced an email aggregation feature that enables users access multiple Web-based email services from a single location. In addition to AOL and AIM Mail, users will be able to access GMail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail accounts from within their AOL pages, with a Mail Preview feature enabling users to look at AOL, Gmail, and Yahoo mail accounts to see new messages as they come in.
“With the launch of mail aggregation, AOL will be the first among the big traditional portals to offer a centralized email experience,” said AOL’s executive VP of programming Bill Wilson, in a statement. “We know that consumers today have multiple email accounts on different services to keep tabs on daily, and we want to make it easier for them.”
AOL is billing the email aggregation service as the first step in a larger site revamp that will introduce a range of new customization features that add third-party content to AOL’s pages, along with giving users the ability to add their own Web links to the main navigation bar and tap into feeds from frequently-visited sites like news and social networking services. AOL says more aggregation features will debut over the next eight weeks, including a “keyhole” view of social networking sites that enables users to keep up on their friends’ activities without actually going to the social networking sites.
Overall, the move is intended to make AOL’s pages stickier, and thereby increase the audience for AOL’s online advertising efforts. However, by recrafting itself as a sort of “meta-portal” for services Web users are already using, AOL is swimming against the current of typical Internet usage, which has seen the decline of generalized portals. However, AOL is hoping that building intelligence into its portal will make the pages more relevant for users: in the coming updates, the site will keep track of user’s activities and automatically adjust content to account for users’ tastes: for instance, a user who consistently ignores sports news might find sports stories drop off their page in favor of topics they’re more interested in, like music or finance.