AOL faces angry Hometown users

While AOL executives were basking in Tuesday's launch of AOL 5.0, many of its users were demanding an explanation on the whereabouts of their home pages.

AOL on Monday finished restoring home pages created by users of its Hometown service, four days after a software problem corrupted the pages. While the problem is fixed, the fallout from irate users, who could not update or connect to the pages, may take a bit longer.

"I have been trying to upload my homepage for two days now, to no avail and numerous excuses from AOL employees," wrote one Hometown member to a UseNet news group on Sunday.

The company would not reveal the total number of Homepage users nor the number of users affected by the glitch. Every AOL screen name is allocated 2MB of disk space to use for hosting a Web page.

AOL gave only a broad outline of the reasons for the outage. "During a routine maintenance procedure, we encountered a software problem that required us to restore many of our members' pages," said Richard D'Amato, an AOL spokesman in the US. D'Amato would not describe why AOL had to restore the pages, nor did he specify how many pages were affected. He did say that "a portion of those who published pages during that time will need to republish (them)," he said.

AOL technical support, it seems, had as few details for irate users of the Hometown service. "My site finally reappeared just before noon; it had been gone for three days," wrote a user in an e-mail to ZDNN. "I finally got hold of a supervisor, who ... said (and I'm not making this up) 'Have you explored moving your pages to a Web hosting service?' After 5 seconds of speechlessness, I finally replied 'No, but I will now!' "

Another site, PSX Direct, which sells PlayStation modification chips, had to reroute users to an alternate site due to the service's downtime and posted a notification to the Usenet mail group.