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Crush of visitors hinder greeting-card sites

/ Source: The Associated Press

Some greeting-card Web sites had trouble meeting demand on Valentine's Day, although one apparently prepared for the rush and did better than usual Thursday, a performance-measurement company said.

Keynote Systems Inc., whose automated probes in 10 U.S. cities check sites every 15 minutes, said that at times, only 30 percent of the attempts to reach those sites succeeded, with visitors unable to access the electronic cards they received or reach a site's home page the rest of the time.

Keynote said sites that usually load in two or three seconds were taking an average of 12 seconds or longer.

Problems with Web sites not only frustrate customers but also deprive sites of advertising revenue, especially if a visitor doesn't come back to view or send a card.

The Web site for Hallmark Cards Inc. was inaccessible or slow starting about 6 a.m. EST, according to Keynote. It was back to normal by late morning but got slow again around noon — just as people on the West Coast got to work and opened cards that had arrived in their inboxes, said Shawn White, Keynote's director of external operations.

Keynote said it also spotted problems with, and The Associated Press found in a test Thursday afternoon that many pages took several seconds to load. But officials at 123Greetings insisted that less than 1 percent of its visitors experienced slowdowns.

" experienced record traffic today, one of the highest in its history," the company said in a statement. "Problems at other greeting cards sites caused record volumes of users to come over to our site, and we were happy to welcome them all."

Hallmark officials did not immediately return phone calls for comment.

Despite the troubles at some site, Keynote said got faster Thursday.

"Every year, things are generally getting better," White said. "It indicates people are learning ... and building sites to handle these peak loads. At the same time, we see even some sites are not meeting the expectations (of) their visitors."