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Holiday shopping crush stalls

Visitors struggle to access site for 10 hours on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. But e-tailers on the whole perform well.

A crush of online shoppers paralyzed, the Web site of the nation's leading retailer, for long periods on Friday.

Black Friday saw consumers struggle briefly to access the Web sites of several top online stores. But the most serious service disruption was at, according to Ben Rushlo, senior manager of competitive research at Keynote Systems. He said performance at the site fell off dramatically starting at 4:30 a.m. ET on Friday.

"We pretty much saw a 100 percent outage on the Wal-Mart site until 2:30 p.m. Eastern time," Rushlo said. "Wal-Mart took the site down at one point and put up a splash page that said, 'Sorry, we're experiencing high volume.'"

Linda Blakley, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said, "Due to a higher-than-anticipated traffic surge, we made the decision to shut down the site temporarily. The site is open for business and the problem resolved."

Online shopping is typically heaviest in December, and Black Friday--a term that refers to the day after Thanksgiving, also one of the biggest shopping days of the year--has sometimes been a good indicator of whether online retail stores are ready for heavy holiday traffic. Rushlo gave most of the sector high marks, saying the majority of sites serviced online customers without any glitches. stumbled only briefly on Thursday, after announcing the availability on the site of 1,000 deeply discounted Xbox 360 video game consoles, according to Keynote, which tracks Web site performance.

As bargain hunters converged on the site, some had trouble accessing Amazon for about 15 minutes, according to Rushlo.

"We noticed a little bit of a blip at about 2 p.m. Eastern time on (Thanksgiving day), Rushlo said. "Amazon's performance was stellar on Friday."

The Associated Press reported that the Walt Disney Company site also suffered brief outages on Friday.

Representatives from Amazon and Disney could not be reached on Friday.