Byte: Surfers can't get no satisfaction

Communications between users of AOL and MSN broke down as users of MSN 2.5 found their e-mail to AOL being bounced for several days. Normal service was resumed last week, but with no one quite sure what had gone wrong. Aware that neither company has been without its e-mail problems in the past, the competitors did not indulge in the sort of high-profile slanging match that rivals in computing industries seem so disposed towards. "It is not yet clear what caused the problem," AOL spokesman Rich D'Amato said. "What's important is that the mail is flowing again. AOL and MSN together are trying to determine what the problem was and where it occurred."

E-mail glitches are part and parcel of the Internet experience for many and one of the reasons cited in an investigation in the US by PC World into customer dissatisfaction with Internet service providers [ISPs] and a high rate of changing ISPs. Based on a survey of 6,000 users, as well as the finding of Inverse Network Technology, an Internet testing company that signed up with 12 US-based ISPs and made 4,600 calls to each in order to test their efficiency, PC World rated the ISPs and found AOL (described as "spam city") bottom with MSN not far off. IBM led the way in terms of technology and customer satisfaction.

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