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AOL home page service bombarded

So many people are trying to use AOL's Web page publishing system that service has slowed to a crawl or, in some cases, a complete halt.

America Online is getting busy on the home-page front--so busy that many home-page builders can't get in to update their own pages.

In a problem reminiscent of AOL's disastrous capacity bottlenecks in previous years, so many AOL subscribers are trying to use the online giant's Web page publishing system that service has slowed to a crawl or, in some cases, a complete halt.

Hometown AOL, which launched in beta in August and officially in the fall, lets subscribers post personal home pages on the Web. The service will be available to Web users without AOL accounts in the future, the company said. That will put it in direct competition with free home-page communities such as those provided by GeoCities (which Yahoo agreed to purchase last month) and Tripod (which Lycos acquired a year ago).

AOL provides a Web authoring and publishing tool called Personal Publisher 3. That tool became inaccessible to new users between Tuesday and Friday last week because of a glitch associated with an automatic software update, AOL acknowledged today. But the bulk of complaints AOL ascribed to overcrowding as users flock to the new service.

"Hometown AOL is new and extremely popular," said AOL spokesperson Jane Lennon. "Sometimes during peak times there can be a delay. We're doing all we can to accommodate demand for the personal home pages."

Hometown users have taken to AOL's message boards to complain about being shut out of their pages.

"Every time I try to publish my Web page, I get stuck on 'Connecting to Network'--up to half an hour before I quit," wrote one frustrated user. "Is there any way to actually publish a Web page using PP3? I've been trying for a couple of days with no luck (morning, afternoon, evening)."

Hometown user Margaret Bosch told CNET News.com today: "I let the program run for over an hour yesterday while it said, 'Communicating with your Web space.' I'm not the only one having this problem. The number of messages I'm seeing on this is enormous."