eBay plays any angle it can

eBay plays any angle it can

After strong-arming auction-search services to stop trespassing on its site, online auctioneer eBay now faces a growing revolt and a PR headache. But eBay has chutzpah in spades. Having shown no mercy toward auction-search businesses, it saw nothing wrong with begging for some itself.eBay's attempt to squash the two dozen or so Web companies that search auction sites played out like a scene from "High Noon", said Bidder's Edge executive James Carney. EBay bullied the auction-search sites into submission and Bidder's Edge acquiesced along with the others - or so it seemed.

Discovering that some of the other companies had struck agreements with eBay, Bidder's Edge says it will resume its patrols of eBay's turf. AuctionWatch CEO Rodrigo Sales said the fact that eBay never followed through on its threat of legal action may have empowered Bidder's Edge to challenge it - and others may soon follow.

Wired News' Craig Bicknell likened eBay to "a business bobbing in the midst of the Web's vast ocean" and building a moat around itself.

"We will take any and all steps necessary to protect our interests and the interests of our users," eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove told Bicknell. "It's an example of one company trying to grab a free ride on the growth of another. They're using our auction listings to attract eyeballs to sell advertising."

Carney, on the other hand, says Bidder's Edge is merely using the same model for which search and directory sites have been lauded since the Web's early days. "We're no different than a Yahoo for auctions," he told Wired News.'s Troy Wolverton called eBay "a company under siege", with deep-pocketed competition. Last week, Playboy announced plans to enter the online auction market, joining the Go Network, which set up an auction house last month, and the Microsoft Network-backed coalition of sites, including ExciteAtHome, that plans to share auction listings among its members.

EBay's not a bully, Pursglove told, just concerned with the experience of its users, who, he said, don't get the full eBay experience through these outside sites.

That might not be such a bad thing. Last week, a man who had bilked eBay bidders out of $US37,000 got 14 months in prison. He apparently never delivered on the digital cameras, laptops and gems he had posted for sale.

Last Tuesday, eBay popped its third outage in three days. The ubiquitous Pursglove told Reuters that the company expects an automatic backup system to be working within two weeks. But that doesn't necessarily make the blackouts history.

"We're still a new and growing enterprise," Pursglove pleaded. "I wish we could promise there would be no more outages, but we can't." By IDG staff

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