eBay makes a new bid

eBay puts up its technology for partners to integrate into other sites. Unfortunately, market response may be less than enthusiastic.

Ebay inc. is opening up its online auction technology in an effort to promote the platform as the engine for auctions. But the company is unlikely to garner much support from computer makers.

Last week, the San Jose, Calif., company said it will open its auction platform to sellers and partners through the eBay application programming interface (API) and developer program. Starting with a handful of partners, eBay will provide APIs and tools to enable its partners to integrate eBay auctions and technology into other sites. A VAR, for example, could auction excess computer gear or used equipment on its own site, using eBay's commerce engine to automate the transaction.

Moreover, the APIs should make it easier for developers of the software that helps eBay buyers and sellers do business to maintain and upgrade their software.

"Basically, eBay is providing the API to foster companies like ours to help their big sellers," says Adam Stock, VP of marketing at Auctiva, whichtargets eBay's so-called power sellers who do thousands of dollars of business on the site each month. Auctiva's software helps the sellers automate the laborious process of posting and selling multiple items.

Online auctions have proven to be big business for some computer makers. Sun Microsystems, for example, has sold about $10 million worth of equipment over the last year on eBay, Mercata and DoveBid, and now is approaching close to $1 million a week in auction sales, according to the company.

Business may be so good, in fact, that eBay will have trouble convincing the computer industry glitterati. Sun was unable to comment at press time whether the company would use eBay's APIs. Sun recently launched its own auction site, called SunBid.

Dell Computer, meanwhile, has its own auction site, called dellauctions.com. The service is powered by FairMarket Inc., an ASP that also provides the auction technology for Lycos, VH1 and others.

"Dynamic pricing should be an extension of a mainstream commerce site," says Bryan Semple, VP of marketing at FairMarket in Woburn, Mass. "It doesn't make sense to me why any e-commerce site would make users go to another site to register and do the transaction. EBay is brilliant at servicing the small business, but a large enterprise has different needs."

Still, the APIs didn't wow Wall Street. Ebay's stock is down sharply this year.

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