AOL Tries To Beef Up E-Mail With Unblab Acquisition

AOL’s latest acquisition is designed to help build out an area that was mostly neglected for years: it’s e-mail service. The company has bought Unblab for an undisclosed amount. In a blog post (via Techcrunch), founder and sole full-time staffer Eli Holder says that he’ll be working on AOL’s new e-mail initiative, Phoenix.

Unblab’s main product, a cloud-based service called Gtriage, has been shut down and will likely serve as the basis for Phoenix. Essentially, Gtriage helps users set priorities for different messages.

As Holder points out, he has his work cut out for him. While once, the announcement “You’ve Got Mail” was everywhere, even serving as the title of a middling Tom Hanks romantic comedy, AOL’s e-mail ranks behind Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), Hotmail, and Gmail, Holder said, adding that yes, AOL’s current e-mail is “lame.” He goes on to say, “But Phoenix is very un-lame. I’d even say it’s very awesome. Really, when you see it, you’ll say ‘Wow, AOL (NYSE: AOL) did this?!?'”

The changes to AOL’s e-mail service also come as Facebook is working on its messaging overhaul as well. That new service is already being billed as a “Gmail killer,” so the idea of AOL improving its offering in that area, and connecting it to other services, could mean that the e-mail space is about ready for to be shaken up. Yahoo has also had the same idea lately and recently gave its e-mail another upgrade. AOL, Yahoo and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) all face the challenges of messaging in a Twitter and texting world. But the changes are overdue and it will be interesting to see whether Holder can help reform the “You’ve Got Mail” brand.