AOL is missing the boat
I wrote earlier about my genius plan for AOL. I was unaware at the time that they were putting the finishing touches on a web email package called... (wait for it)... AIM Mail.
I'd call it "Missing the boat email." Or "too little too late email." Maybe "me seventeen mail."
It's aggravating that AOL has a virtually unassailable IM position, and they are not leveraging the hell out of it at every turn. By "leveraging," I do not mean "showing Britney Spears-laced ads on every pixel of the screen." I mean taking the intrinsic advantages of an authenticated, closed network to applications that need them badly.
Let's review AIM mail for a second: 2GB storage; web interface; spam controls... yawn. I mean that's not a simple thing to do, for a user base the size that they have. But they did not make it different. As in, AIM Mail does something that no other email system does so I must have it.
They did integrate some of the closed-network aspects that they have available to them: for example, you can "unsend" a message if the recipient hasn't read it yet (and they are also AIM members.) Yay, protection for for hot-headed morons who don't think before they hit send.
AIM Mail would be unique and useful if they took this positioning: it's not email. It's doesn't do what email does, which is to be able to send and receive email from anyone on earth. Who needs that? That's boring; I can do that 15 million other ways. AIM Mail should be buddy mail and that's it. It should be only a tool for getting authenticated messages from buddies: people with whom you have a preexisting relationship.
Think about how you pay attention to IMs vs. email, and what is more urgent and isolated in your mind. Think how cool it would be to have email that was actually 100% for you, from people you want to hear from.
Come on, AOL. Get interesting again.