In the tail of early adopter to average consumer, and in specific the actual products use by them, I would say AOL would have to be on the far right. So, after Google (who happened to have started the craze), Yahoo! and Microsoft, it’s AOL’s turned to have their fair go with their new mail beta.
The new AOL Mail Beta, which has been out for about a week or so, seems to come across as an OK product with a good interface. The first thing I noticed about it is it’s resemblance with Yahoo!’s Mail Beta and Windows Live Mail. From the point of the interface, it looks like a mix of both. A like the fact that the address book has its own column (sidebar) and it’s fast, much better than the ones I’ve seen in the other products. Unlike its predecessor, this one is really good with browsers — it didn’t seem to crash it or even slow it down, and let me mention that I’m writing this from a 90’s PC with less than a GHz processor (yes, it is quite temporary 😉 ).
Overall, while it’s a fair attempt, let me make it clear that it’s no GMail. In this chain of Google-Yahoo!-Microsoft-AOL, AOL is always the last to follow and funnily enough the one turns out with the worst product. AOL Mail is sort of like a GMail for an extreme consumer. While it does offer 2GB space, t’s missing many of the advanced features that chronic e-mailers would appreciate, although the drag-and-drop AJAX-based interface make it worth while for anyone who’s willing to give it a try.