America Online says a glitch temporarily blocked access to its instant messaging system, AOL Instant Messenger, a free service that enables people to chat with one another instantly.
"Due to an equipment glitch some instant messaging users may not have been able to access their buddy lists for a few minutes," said Andrew Weinstein, a spokesman for the AOL Time Warner subsidiary. "The issue has now been resolved."
Weinstein declined to characterize the nature of the glitch, but he said that it lasted only minutes Tuesday.
AOL's AIM service, with 29.1 million members, in recent months has fallen behind Microsoft's MSN Messenger, which has 29.5 million members, according to a recent report by Jupiter Media Metrix.