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GeoCities suffers email glitch

The free email and Web page hosting service blames its server trouble and subsequent email problems on growing pains.

Some GeoCities members found themselves unable to send or receive email after mail servers went on the blink yesterday afternoon. The service since has been restored.

At 4:12 p.m. PT, the company's operations team posted a notice to its system status site warning that it was having problems with its mail servers and advising users experiencing difficulties to postpone sending email.

The operations team posted another notice this morning, saying that service had been restored.

GeoCities has more than 1 million registered email members. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of these are active users, defined as those who have logged on in the past 30 days, according to GeoCities spokesman Dick Hackenberg.

Hackenberg attributed the problems to the free email and home page provider's recent growth.

"We have experienced rapid growth, and rapid growth pangs, like any system does," said Hackenberg, who said the company was anticipating a system upgrade in the next two to four weeks, and that the company was developing antispamming technologies for its email service as well. "We're constantly upgrading the system because of the number of users," he said.

Director of operations Kevin Timmons said his team was still trying to get to the bottom of the outage, which he said slowed down service as two servers went down for a period of about 20 minutes.

But at least one user complained he was unable to access mail as late as 9:20 this morning.

In addition to its more than 1 million email members, GeoCities boasts a comparable number of Web page tenants and says it adds about 4,000 each day. The company cites December 1997 figures showing it had more than 91 million visits and 574 million views that month.

Earlier this month, GeoCities announced that it had chosen Exodus Communications to provide hosting and backbone services. In announcing the deal, GeoCities chief technology officer John Rezner said in a statement, "As the largest and fastest-growing community on the Web, GeoCities requires fast, reliable service. Users won't tolerate down time."

Indeed, users took to GeoCities' bulletin boards to gripe about the outage, as well as other recent email glitches.

"I can't seem to access my email, even though I do everything that the help provider said," complained one GeoCitizen.

Others argued about the overall quality of GeoMail.

"I suggest anyone with problems with mail with GeoCities to just cancel their GeoCities account," fumed one participant. "The mail POP server is always overloaded and half my messages come back to me timed out. I can't send or receive any messages during daylight hours because the server never responds...GeoCities isn't worth your time."

But others chimed in to defend the free service.

"GeoCities mail rules!" wrote one user. "I hardly ever have any trouble accessing my GeoCities mail, and I use it daily...I have only had trouble accessing the GeoCities mail server about three days in the past year," the user wrote, and went on to compare GeoMail favorably to a leading online service in colorful language.