iWon fumbles Excite transition

Problems began over the weekend for the Excite Network: A computer problem is preventing some customers from retrieving their e-mail.

Alorie Gilbert Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Alorie Gilbert
writes about software, spy chips and the high-tech workplace.
Alorie Gilbert
2 min read
Some Excite Network customers can't retrieve their e-mail because of a computer problem, a company spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Problems began over the weekend when the Excite Network installed $2 million worth of new hardware to handle increased traffic, company spokeswoman Erica Schietinger said. iWon, which changed its corporate identity to the Excite Network after purchasing the Excite.com portal last year, has been switching Excite e-mail users to a new system since December.

There was "a massive failure" over the weekend, according to a notice customers saw when they tried to access their free e-mail accounts. There have been intermittent outages in the e-mail program for the last several days, Schietinger said.

The problem affected a small percentage of the roughly 400 million e-mails handled by the three million to four million Excite e-mail accounts, Schietinger said Wednesday. She said the problem was resolved Wednesday, but the failure notice to customers was still posted.

Customer Marcus Jonsson said this was only the latest problem he's had with the migration. He said that since mid-December, when the switchover began, he's had mail bounced or delayed for up to a day. Jonsson added that he's unhappy with decisions to eliminate some features such as e-mail forwarding.

"iWon was a portal already. They should be familiar with that kind of system, so why is it taking so long?" Jonsson asked. "I can't imagine how many customers they're losing."

iWon did not receive any of Excite.com's equipment or code in the acquisition following Excite@Home's bankruptcy. As a result, it has been recreating the features of the old Excite portal, such as each customer's unique portal settings, and readying its infrastructure for the transition, Schietinger said. The timing of the migration was established in the bankruptcy settlement.

"We had to work within those deadlines," she said. "The goal has always been to keep users as happy as humanly possible within a tight deadline."

Also Tuesday, some people couldn't access the Excite Network site because of a brief outage caused by the company switching on a piece of equipment, Schietinger said.

The Excite Network competes with other portals, such as Yahoo and MSN, which also offer free e-mail. Research firm Nielsen/NetRatings ranked Excite.com 19th among the Web sites with the highest number of unique visitors in November.