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Valentine sites perform better this year


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NEW YORK (AP) -- Web sites delivering online greeting cards and other Valentine's Day features had some rush-hour delays but overall performed better this year, Internet analysts said Friday.

Speed and availability declined at some sites Friday morning, coinciding with Internet users all trying to open cards from their loved ones, said Roopak Patel, a product manager with Keynote Systems Inc., a company that measures Internet performance.

Performance dips were also noticed late Thursday as people rushed to the sites to send cards and order flowers at the last minute.

Keynote tracked 13 sites, including godiva.com and egreetings.com, from 30 U.S. locations. Besides greeting-card sites, the San Mateo, California, company looked at those that sell flowers, chocolates, perfumes and candies.

Patel said performance improved from last year, when visitors to some sites had to wait as much as a half-hour just to select a card.

For a 24-hour period ending 2 p.m. Friday, Keynote found that the 13 sites were available on average at least 96 percent of the time for Internet users with high-speed connections. Web pages generally loaded within seconds.

"Overall the sites performed very well," Patel said. "Web sites in general are becoming savvier, planning ahead and doing load testing to make sure sites can handle the traffic expected."

But some sites had isolated problems. Availability at egreetings, for instance, dipped to as low as 70 percent late Thursday, meaning 30 percent of users couldn't get in, Patel said. Availability was better Friday, he said.

Still, some people trying to retrieve cards from egreetings got the message "Happy Valentine's Day. Wish it were happier for us."

The greeting blamed unavailability on "extremely high holiday traffic."

At Hallmark.com, which was not one of the sites Keynote tested, visitors occasionally got a message to return shortly "due to exceptionally heavy traffic on our site."

David Poplar, a spokesman with egreetings parent American Greetings Corp., said error messages were "few and far between" considering the Valentine's Day demand.

He said the company's Web sites, which include AmericanGreetings.com and BlueMountain.com, were experiencing an increase in traffic from last year and had reconfigured their home pages to better accommodate visitors.

Hallmark officials had no immediate comment on the site's performance.



Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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