RealTime IT News

AOL to Restore Dropped Screen Names

America Online says it expects to have restored today thousands of AIM Instant Messenger names that were accidentally dropped from the network last week.

As of Monday morning, engineers were still working on reinstating AIM screen names, and corresponding AIM buddy Lists, that were deactivated last week during the company's regular cycle of clearing inactive names.

AOL spokeswoman Krista Thomas said the nearly 10,000 members who were mistakenly dropped, the vast majority of which were reported on Thursday, are expected to be restored by the end of Monday.

"We sincerely regret the interruption of service which some users experienced and we apologize for the inconvenience the interruption may have caused," Thomas said in a statement.

The company claims 50 million people use AIM and that the network infrastructure handles nearly 2 billion instant messages each day, making it necessary to continually purge inactive users. Screen names are generally scratched from the system after going unused for 12 months or more and made available to new users.

While working to correct the error, AOL said they discovered a small number of Netscape.net screen names that been inadvertently removed, as well. This affected an undisclosed number of users of the free, Web-based Netscape e-mail. Those screen names are also expected to be fully restored by the end of Monday. Netscape is a division of AOL.

The Virginia-based company first reported the problem to its users on Friday when they posted a message on the AIM Web site. Thomas said the company doesn't have e-mail addresses for many of its 50 million users, because it is not mandatory to supply one when signing up for the service.

Although AOL's IM remains free, the company has continued to add paid services to generate revenue on top of the popular program. Pushing its stated belief that instant messaging is a doorway to communication in the office and at home, AOL now has AIM Voice Conferencing, AIM Web Meetings, AIM Games and AIM Expressions & Super Buddy Icons on their roster of paid services.