updated 11/17/2005 2:08:55 PM ET 2005-11-17T19:08:55

Two new buddies greeted chatters on America Online Inc.'s instant-messaging service this week, but not everyone wanted to be their friend.

Some AIM users complained that the buddies amounted to an intrusion. In a Web journal entry, Mike Masnick of Techdirt Inc. compared them to "buddy list spam."

Normally, users manually add a buddy to the list of contacts with whom they frequently chat. The new buddies — to promote AOL's movies and shopping services — are known as bots.

Users who send a message to the "MovieFone" buddy are automatically given options to check movie showtimes. The "ShoppingBuddy" offers ideas for gifts and information on deals. Sponsored by Gap Inc., products from its stores get top billing.

The two join other AIM bots, such as those for news and baseball scores, but this was the first time AOL added them automatically when users logged on, said AOL spokeswoman Krista Thomas.

Users of newer versions of AIM get an alert about the additions with instructions for their removal; information also is available at AIM's Web site.

In adding bots automatically, AOL was looking for a way to make users more aware of their existence, Thomas said.

She said the Time Warner Inc. unit was soliciting feedback on whether to do so again, and response so far has been mixed.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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