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Talk City users upset by site's shuttering

Saying they were given no warning of the closure, many people whose Web sites the company hosted are disappointed that they were unable to back up their sites. Others miss the chat services.

The shutdown of Talk City has left many of its former customers upset and at no loss for words.

Saying they were given no warning of the closure, many people whose Web sites were hosted by online chat company Talk City are upset that they were unable to back up those sites. Meanwhile, others are simply saddened by the end of Talk City's popular chat services.

"I'm so sick about this," said Tamara Latham, whose poetry Web site disappeared when Talk City shut down. "All that work for nothing."

Talk City shuttered its site last week after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy several days earlier. The company, which had been involved since January in a legal dispute with LiveWorld, the former owner of the Talk City site, could no longer afford to continue the litigation, said Robert Young, Talk City's chief executive.

Young said he didn't know what would happen to the Web sites or the servers they were hosted on.

"It's effectively not my company anymore," Young said. "I don't know, because it's not in my control."

Talk City's lawyers did not return calls seeking comment. The trustee of Talk City's bankruptcy was not immediately available for comment.

LiveWorld sued Talk City in January seeking to collect the money Talk City agreed to pay for the site. LiveWorld is still trying to recover that money or at least some of Talk City's assets, said Peter Friedman, CEO of LiveWorld.

However, even if he were able to get back the servers, Friedman said there was little chance he or anyone else would resurrect the Talk City site, which hosted about 2.5 million home pages when LiveWorld was still running it. There are no assets left in Talk City, and LiveWorld can't afford to re-open the site, Friedman said.

"I think that basically there's very little chance of people recovering anything," Friedman said. "It's unfortunate. If I could do something about it in a practical way, I would."

Little recourse, little hope
The Talk City customers are only the latest Net users to be left in the lurch by the closure of a dot-com company. Late last year, online photo company PhotoPoint shut down abruptly, leaving customers without any way to retrieve the photographs they had saved on the site. The company later offered to burn the photos on to CDs, but for a fee.

Many Excite@Home customers also faced problems retrieving their saved e-mail after they were switched over to AT&T Broadband's network.

Legal experts have said that customers who lose files because an online company has shut down have little recourse and little hope of recovering them.

Canine trainer Stephanie Johnson had a Web site hosted by Talk City dedicated to her borzoi breeding business. Johnson, whose site had been on Talk City for about three years, chose the company because its site was easy to use.

Although she had back-up or hard copies of photographs and other information, Johnson said she's had to reconstruct the extensive dog pedigrees she had on her Talk City site.

"I've just been retyping and retyping and retyping," said the Tupelo, Miss., resident. "I'm really beating myself up over not saving it."

Jan Cantu didn't have a Web page on Talk City, but had been an active member of the site's chat room for people 40 and older for nearly five years. She met hundreds of friends through the chat room, many of whom provided support for her when her father died several years ago.

Cantu paid $12 for the chat service when Talk City introduced yearly fees last year, but said she wasn't bitter that she had lost her money. The Bakersfield, Calif., bookkeeper said she offered to pay fees for some of her other friends and would have done more to keep the site going if she could.

"It's really sad," Cantu said. "It was a big part of a lot of people's lives."