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AOL jams Messenger Service as Microsoft cyberwar heats up

SHARE AOL jams Messenger Service as Microsoft cyberwar heats up

NEW YORK (AP) -- America Online Inc. responded to the release of instant messaging software from Microsoft Inc. by electronically jamming messages that users of the Microsoft software tried to send to people who use AOL's service.

Microsoft's MSN Messenger Service, released Thursday, works through the Microsoft Network site, allowing instant message exchanges with the 40 million users of MSN Hotmail.Instant messengers allow Internet users to chat in "real time" by sending messages that recipients see instantly, without having to go through e-mail. While common enough on the Web, few messenger programs are compatible with others.

The Microsoft program was designed to allow messages to be sent to users of the popular AOL Instant Messenger System, or AIM. That aspect of the new software angered AOL, which late Thursday blocked MSN users from interacting with AIM users, The New York Times reported today.

Seattle-based Microsoft said it had revised its program late Friday to get around the AOL block. But Dulles, Va.-based AOL responded within hours by issuing a second block, the Times said. The story also was reported today by The Washington Post.

To determine which AOL users are online, Microsoft's product enters AOL's servers in a way that the company says violates its copyrights and trademarks.

Among AOL's complaints is that Microsoft requires AOL users to enter their password, AOL spokeswoman Ann Brackbill said Thursday.

"It raises significant and serious privacy and security issues," Brackbill said. "Its unauthorized access to the AOL namespace is akin to hacking."

Analysts say the new software as a key step in the battle among companies to obtain Web traffic to help them sell advertisements.