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'Hardware glitch' causes AIM to twitch

America Online's popular instant messaging service is hit with periodic outages, just two weeks after the launch of AIM 5.5.

America Online confirmed that a "hardware glitch" resulted in periodic outages for its popular AOL Instant Messenger service.

AIM, one of the Web's most popular instant messaging (IM) products, started experiencing problems before 2 p.m. PST Friday, a company representative said. Traffic was then rerouted, and the service was restored. As of late afternoon, the problem was fixed, AOL said.

"In all, some users may have experienced varying degrees of performance issues for about an hour," AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham wrote in a statement. "The issue has been totally resolved, and we continue to investigate its cause."

Interruptions to AIM's service can have wide-ranging effects due to the service's popularity. IM has become another way for people to communicate on the Internet, because it acts as a real-time way to exchange text messages. Other companies, such as Microsoft and Yahoo, have their own IM products that have amassed millions of users, but not as many as AIM, according to online measurement firms.

AOL recently released an AIM upgrade, called AIM 5.5, that adds streaming real-time video capabilities to the software. The addition of video is significant, because up until this summer, the Federal Communications Commission had prevented AOL from offering video IM.

The FCC rules were part of provisions imposed during its review of the ill-fated AOL-Time Warner merger. The agency wanted to limit AIM's market dominance from spreading into more advanced IM applications. But the commission eventually lifted the restriction.