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Hotmail glitch causing email onslaught

Multiple copies of email from Microsoft's free email provider are jamming up the Internet's mail system.

    Multiple copies of email from Microsoft's Hotmail, the Internet's largest free email provider, have been jamming up the Internet's mail system today.

    Some administrators have complained that Hotmail's mail servers are sending out multiple copies of some pieces of email, effectively "mail bombing" Internet service providers.

    Hotmail--which on Monday announced it had 30 million accounts--confirmed today that there is a problem but could not give further details.

    "There is a problem," said Laura Norman, product manager for MSN Hotmail. "At this point we're still looking into specifics. We've got all our resources looking into this and we're working as hard as we can to fix it as soon as possible."

    But more than one email administrator told CNET that the problem has been going on at least since last night and seems especially noticeable in email lists. Not all email sent from Hotmail accounts seems to be affected, however.

    One administrator suggested that Hotmail stop all its email to save the Net from the onslaught.

    "When they have a problem, it's a big problem for everybody else," said Jeff Wasilko, email administrator for a cable modem ISP. His service, in fact, is currently blocking Hotmail. "If they realize there's a problem they should pull the switch, rather than mail bombing the rest of the Internet, until they can get it under control."

    Regardless of the specifics of the problem, this example once again illustrates how being big comes at a price.

    While smaller ISPs and providers can have outages that go virtually unnoticed by the Net, outages and even glitches at big providers such as Hotmail and America Online are magnified. When AOL, for instance, has a mail outage in which it can't accept mail--even for a few hours--it can back up the entire Internet.