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.

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