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AOL unblocks Web access

America Online has reopened access to Web sites that rely on a new Internet protocol AOL thought might cause problems with its browser.

America Online (AOL) has lifted a block of Web sites that rely on a new Internet protocol the company feared would cause problems with its browser, an AOL spokesman said today.

AOL had blocked access to sites that used HTTP 1.1, the latest edition of the basic protocol that transfers pages from Web servers, fearing that the new protocol would cause AOL's 16-bit browser to crash, according to company spokesman Tim Clifford.

Most of AOL's 7 million members use this browser and the block meant they were unable to access many Web sites, including several online shopping sites that were hoping for a last-minute rush the week before Christmas. Clifford said the block lasted about a week and was lifted on Christmas Eve.

"It was briefly blocked because [AOL] was concerned that the 1.1 protocol would cause problems with the system. They decided that they would tentatively let it go forward unless other problems developed with it," said Clifford.

AOL will continue monitoring the new protocol, but so far, users haven't reported any crashes or unusual browser behavior, according to Clifford.

Webmasters of the sites that were blocked had complained loudly about AOL's decision to cut off access. They were especially miffed about a messages that AOL sent to its members that indicated that the problem emanated from the Web sites and not from AOL.