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MSN Messenger goes dark

Microsoft's Instant Messenger service went down early Monday, affecting up to 75 million users worldwide. While some have had their access restored, others are still in the dark.

Microsoft's Instant Messenger service went down early Monday, affecting up to 75 million people worldwide who sign on to the service to chat with friends and co-workers.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker lost for six hours much of the power to its .Net Messenger service, the backend component that runs all of its instant messaging clients--including Windows Messenger and MSN Messenger. Bob Visse, MSN's director of marketing, said that the source of the problem was as yet undetected, but the outage was "fairly widespread."

"It's a worldwide outage, and most customers are affected," he said. "We're investigating it, but we do not know what the issue is."

Visse said the company started receiving its first outage reports at about 6 a.m. PST. The service was back up at noon. While some people had their access restored earlier, others were still in the dark.

"Currently, myself and a few others are unable to access MSN Messenger," said one user in an e-mail to CNET "(It's) not a big issue personally, as we just went over to Yahoo messenger."

The outage comes on the heels of problems with Microsoft's .Net Passport servers that bumped some subscribers from their online accounts late last week. Passport, the linchpin of many of MSN's personalized services--including the Hotmail e-mail service--suffered a brief time-out as a result of server networking glitches, according to the company.

MSN users on Monday also complained of an inability to access Messenger and Hotmail in recent days. But Visse said that the company has not detected any problems with the Web-based e-mail service. He added that the .Net Passport service is running properly.

Visse said that major outages like the Messenger delay are rare. He said that people can visit MSN's support page to get an update on the service problems and find out when it will be restored. Still, the support page was unavailable Monday as a result of overwhelming traffic.

"We apologize sincerely to our customers. This is not the way we want to start the New Year with our users, and we'll work day and night until we get this thing solved," Visse said.