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Update 3 According to Reg readers on both sides of the Atlantic, Microsoft Hotmail and other parts of MSN are on the fritz.

Two readers in the UK and one in the US shot us emails early in the California am, complaining that Steve Ballmer and company have lost control of their servers. "Has the rest of the world world noticed that Hotmail seems to have died today?" asked one Brit.

"Hotmail appears to be down," wrote another. "All the people I've managed to contact are having problems. Either they can't sign in or they can't even access any MSN page. This has been going on for at least 6 hours.

"University of Cardiff and University of West of England, Bristol are affected to my knowledge," this reader continues, "of course there could be more." And there is more. Others report that various parts of MSN, including Hotmail, are down across the US, from New York to LA.

When we emailed Microsoft's PR firm, asking for comment on this massive outage, they said they'd get back to us. Then they asked if we could provide a deadline. We told them we needed an answer about as quickly as the world's MSN users need access to their email.

And this seemed to work. "We are aware that some customers may be experiencing difficulty accessing their Windows Live accounts," a Microsoft spokesperson soon wrote back. "We’re actively investigating the cause and are working to take the appropriate steps to remedy the situation as rapidly as possible. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and disruption this may be causing our customers." ®

Update

Microsoft has acknowledged that this MSN outage was worldwide, and it says the problem has been solved - though it won't say what the problem was. "Earlier today, an issue began that has caused some consumers worldwide to experience difficulty logging in to their Windows Live ID accounts," says Samantha McManus, Windows Live product manager. "This issue has since been resolved and normal operations have been restored to all customers."

Update 2

Word has just arrived from my mother: "It is 7:30 pm in Raleigh, North Carolina. I still cannot connect with my Hotmail. The problem has not been resolved - no matter what Microsoft says."

There you have it.

Update 3

Just as Hotmail and Microsoft's MSN service get back on their feet, Yahoo!'s email service is having its own problems.

It's almost like the Microhoo! merger has already happened. Hotmail had problems for much of yesterday on both sides of the Atlantic.

Hotmail's problems appear to be caused by issues around logging in to Windows Live services.

But this morning, UK time, Yahoo!'s email service was unavailable.

No one from Yahoo! was available for comment at time of writing.

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