Google now baby-steps away from eBay-like auction service

Google now baby-steps away from eBay-like auction service

Summary: I was just reading Steve Bryant's Ten Possible Consequences of Google's GBuy and I couldn't help but wonder about his omission of the possibility that Google will use the core of the auction technology it has already developed to build its own eBay like auction marketplace for goods and services (non-advertising).  Think about it.

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TOPICS: Google
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I was just reading Steve Bryant's Ten Possible Consequences of Google's GBuy and I couldn't help but wonder about his omission of the possibility that Google will use the core of the auction technology it has already developed to build its own eBay like auction marketplace for goods and services (non-advertising).  Think about it.  The building blocks are obviously in place and given Google's knack for surprise drama, how could such a service not be in the works? If you Google "Google auctions," you'll get a lot of hits.  But a lot of them discuss the way auctions work with Google's AdWords. Most of the other ones discuss Google's unorthodox initial public offering, which involved an auction.  But only a few hint at the idea that Google will or should take on eBay in the mainstream online auction space. 

Last October, blogger Aaron Wall speculated that a new Google facility going up in the Phoenix, AZ area might house the team that would bring Google Auctions to fruition.  The comments on the blog make it pretty clear that competition for eBay would be a good thing.  I have no idea where things ended up with that Phoenix facility (anbody?).  Then, there are the 448 people (as of the writing of this blog) that have signed an open on-line petition that asks Google to get into the auction game.  That's not as many petitioners as Al Gore is getting to run for president in 2008.  Google, by the way, is named in petitiononline.com's third largest petition, bearing the signature of more than 10,000 people. You'll never guess in a million years what it's for. 

Personally, I think some competition for eBay would be welcome.  I use eBay and there are few things it does that drive me nuts.  For example, on an eBay search results page, I often see an extraordinary price for some audio gear that would nicely complement my collection of podcasting gear.  But when I click through on certain items, the current prices for them are very different (and much higher) than what's displayed on the search results page.  It's clear from the bidding history that the higher price was set long before I did the search. This happens quite often and it's a productivity killer since I wouldn't waste my time clicking through to certain listings if the search results showed me the actual current price. 

Another eBay feature that rubs me the wrong way is the way my bid for something will be below the reserve price, but above the initial price of the item (set by the seller),  yet, for some reason (as shown below), the current bid doesn't reflect my maximum bid.  This only seems to happen on items with a reserve price and as best as I can tell, it's either a bug or its a feature that's designed to keep the reserve price secret until a bid exceeds it. But, if you ask me, once people start bidding on an item that has a reserve price, others should be able to see  those bids so that they don't waste their time  feeding multiple bids into the system  (trying not to bid too much while also seeing if they most they're willing to pay is above the reserve price).  ebay_reserved01.JPG

Don't get me wrong.  I love eBay.  It has saved me thousands of dollars and I've even sold a few items through it.  But there's clearly room for improvement in the user experience (as there always is with any product or service).  Or, to the extent that Google has already re-invented a user interface to browser-based email (using AJAX in its Gmail), there's probably an opportunity to reinvent online auctions. 

In his story, Bryant alludes to Yahoo!'s missteps in the the area of online payments and auctions. It's almost as if any attempt to take on eBay in any of its areas of core strengths is something not even Google should be thinking about. Bryant details why businesspeople should be careful about turning too much control over to Google and settles on "cautiously optimistic" for his assessment of the service.  "Cautiously optimistic" is a phrase that covers you for any possibility.  Regardless of how things turn out, no one can ever say you were wrong if you declared yourself as "cautiously optimistic." 

Me, I'm optimistic about competition.  There's nothing that motivates a dominant company to innovate like some stiff competition from a competitor with deep pockets (aka: fear).  If, on behalf of the users of PayPal and eBay's auctions, competition from Google results in an overall improvement to the online auction and payment space, then it's all goodness.  Today, you can imagine how much traffic Google must send eBay's way. Rarely do any of my searches for a product on Google not turn up some links to an eBay auction. 

So, it's not very hard to imagine Google sending some of that link love to its own auction service where Google can get a bigger cut of the action (than it can through eBay's participation in Google's AdWords), particularly if it has its own payment service in place. After all, if PayPal is the only other big game in town, it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to start an auction service and then send the transactional part of the business to your competitor.  And, judging by the way users of both AdWords and Google Checkout will get a financial break, Google is clearly interested in the network effects of its reach. So, this (Google Checkout) is a piece of the puzzle that Google is better off having in place than not, should it decide to enter the auction business and further leverage that network effect... a prediction that I'm very optimistic about (read: no caution there folks).  How can it not at this point?

Byrant talks a bit about switching and how that might be awkward. First, let's remember that the number of people using PayPal is a tiny fraction of the number of people that will one day be using it, or services like it.  So, there's plenty of greenfield opportunity here for Google or any other entry into the market.  Second, in terms of switching, I'm a PayPal user and I have taken credit card payments via PayPal which in turn takes a 2.5 percent cut out of my transactions.  A 2.5 percent cut that could one day amount to thousands of total dollars.  There's a Gulf station down the road from my house that sells gas for a nickel less than everybody else. The line of cars to get that Gulf's gas invariably stretches right out of the station's driveway.  People are sensitive to pennies these days.  With the right benefits, switching isn't difficult to imagine. 

Disclosure: In the spirit of media transparency, I want to disclose that in addition to my day job at ZDNet, I'm also a co-organizer of Mashup Camp and Mashup University. Google, which is mentioned in this story, is one of the sponsors of both upcoming events. For more information on my involvement with these events, see the special disclosure page that I've prepared and published here on ZDNet.

Topic: Google

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  • Clarifications

    The reason why the current price of an eBay item doesn't automatically jump up to your max bid amount when your max bid doesn't meet the reserve is because it would be pointless to do so, when your max bid doesn't meet the reserve anyway. There's no way you'll win the item at your max bid price anyway. This is not a bug, but is designed to function this way. Also, many sellers WANT the reserve price to be unknown and hidden - that's why they choose to have a reserve price in the first place. This is not something eBay does; the seller makes this choice. Also, many sellers will tell you what the reserve price is if you just ask.
    litosmom
  • RE: Google now baby-steps away from eBay-like auction service

    i am very new to internet. i have, however, become very aquainted with eBay auctions. I have purchased more than $1000.00 in knives from different eBayers since February,2007. I have found many irritating situations. I have found it very easy to sell on eBay auction. I have sold four items. The first was a brand new set of the holy scriptures in extra large print. These were 6 volumes of over 1,000 pages each. leather bound. I developed my page, and after being satisfied, I decided to change the shipping from actual to "FREE". My reserve was $150.00, since I had no need for them. I picked them up for $200.00 and got a great deal at that! I was leaving on a trip that afternoon, so I didn't check the change. When I returned from my tripand checked my mail, I had sold them. FOR $10.00 !!! I tried to find out what had happened to my Reserve Price of $150.00. eBay said I hadn't set a Reserve. Together we figured out that when I changed my shipping fee, it changed all my $$ figures. They suggested I read the instructions closer next time. Oh yes, they did apologize for my loss!! I said there were Four times I lost because of this or something like it. $2,600.00 in Gold Maple Leafs( Canadian) .9999% pure bullion coins.Reserve $236.00 each. I somehow missed the "Each" and after negotiations with buyer, settled for current market price and free shipping. He only wanted 4 at $198.00 current market price each!!! I feel I lucked out on that one! 180# Blacksmith anvil.Current market price $4.00 per pound. Sold for $180.00 plus $68.00 shipping. eBay showed me that I had placed a $ sign instead of #, and missed it in preview. I cancelled before the first bid on 350 individually different new in package Hot Wheel cars. I caught that one after it appeared on the auction site. Luckily, I had placed it in the wrong heading under antiques!
    My point is not how dumb I am, but how mechanical eBay auctions are. It's up to you to list properly, and it is written in their policy. I would like to see a proof reading of items to assure the bid price,reserve priceand shipping price make some sort of sense.
    unkle buck
  • RE: Google now baby-steps away from eBay-like auction service

    Hello David,

    We would like to thank you for this story, we read it way back in 2006.

    I'm please to announce that we, usiff.com, took your advice and changed our bidding process.

    Now, when one of our bidders use our system, the reserve price will be displayed after they submit the bid.

    Example: Seller (A) list an item for $10.00 but has a reserve price of $40.00.

    When Bidder (b) bids a max bid of 38.00; this bidder will be warned about the "reserve price" and will have the option of bidding up to this sellers reserve price or this bidder can just say, nope and go look for a better deal.

    Time is money...

    Thank you again and have a great day...

    http://www.usiff.com/

    Rene Holliday
    USiFF Online Auctions
    reneholliday@...
  • RE: Google now baby-steps away from eBay-like auction service

    March 16, 2008
    At this moment in time, I would welcome and support Google auction site if they were to open one. I feel it would be a vastly refreshing and welcomed site by a large percentage of eBays members right now, who are desperately searching for an alternative. eBay has taken some serious and risky maneuvers, changing their policies in hopes that it would be widely excepted by their member or perhaps their members would adapt and stay force of habit. Regardless to eBays reasoning behind these changes it hasn???t been the positive step forwards that eBay may have predicted. Now would be a perfect time for Google to proceed with this endeavor and if done right, which I???m sure it will be, Google will be the talk of the town.
    Spiritdreams
    • Must be big baby steps

      It's mid 2008 and still no Google Auctions as of yet.
      Now would be a great time for Google to kick it off being many sellers on ebay are now looking for other options due to the recent changes made to the feedback system.
      I've sold on ebay for 7 years now and my current sales are about a 3rd of what they used to be, not enough to maintain or support so I need something better or go get a job which that thought makes me shudder.
      Come on Google, get the auction site up and running so I don't have to find a job after not working for 7 years.

      KT
      KomaToast
  • RE: Google now baby-steps away from eBay-like auction service

    I think www.zbid.net will give www.ebay.co.uk hard times ahead.. no other auction site out there can challenge ebay..we have hopes in www.zbid.net, look at those ebay suspended users trying to find ebay alternative..the best ebay alternative to be launched in mid august 2008 is on its way to challenge ebay nasdaq inc..
    zbid
  • RE: Google now baby-steps away from eBay-like auction service

    I think www.zbid.net will give www.ebay.co.uk hard times ahead.. no other auction site out there can challenge ebay..we have hopes in www.zbid.net, look at those ebay suspended users trying to find ebay alternative..the best ebay alternative to be launched in mid august 2008 is on its way to challenge ebay nasdaq inc.. We can't wait to see this happen. We need an ebay alternative and we as public will support www.zbid.net all the way.
    zbid
  • RE: Google now baby-steps away from eBay-like auction service

    your taken to long, well be at war with Russia
    before you get started.
    hookdeal
  • RE: Google now baby-steps away from eBay-like auction service

    HURRY UP GOOGLE, EBAY SUCKS AND ARE FULL OF GREEDY MONEY HUNGRY MORONS THAT ONLY CARE ABOUT THE BOTTOM LINE.... WAAAAAAAAA ONLY 2.2 BILLION IN 3 MONTHS. PUT THOSE S.O.B'S UNDER ONCE AND FOR ALL.
    LARRYGSCALE
  • RE: Google now baby-steps away from eBay-like auction service

    GOOGLE SHOULD DO A AUCTION ITSELF. EBAY JUST STARTED SHOVING IT TO SELLERS AGAIN TODAY. NEW EBAY POLICY, THEY WANT SHIPPING COSTS LISTED IN EACH LISTING. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE THE SHIPPING COST LISTED, THEY STARTED DELETING YOUR LISTINGS AS OF TODAY. HAD A LISTING WHERE SHIPPING WAS INCLUDED IN THE PRICE, QUANTITY OF 48 PCS AVAILABLE EBAY DELETED IT. I HAVE SOLD A MONITOR FOR $900 AND HAD TO SHIP IT OVERNIGHT CHARGED TO THE BUYERS FEDEX ACCOUNT. OH! I'M SUPPOSED TO LIST SHIPPING AS $200+ FOR 48.3 LBS LAST YEAR SENT THE SAME MONITOR TO KOREA $ 260+ SHIPPING THEY REQUIRE ME TO REDO 1500 + LISITNGS I PAY EBAY HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS A MONTH AND THEY ARE SCREWING ME AND OTHERS NOW IN A NEW WAY. GOOGLE, IT IS TIME TO DO SOMETHING TO CORRECT EBAY ABUSES AND MAKE MONEY AT THE SAME TIME
    RBARDY
  • eBay monopoly causes Human abuse, abuse to the disabled, and all sellers

    ebay is a monopoly.
    SUBJECT RE: The eBay 5 STAR Detailed Seller Ratings drives families out of work.
    Discrimination, Abuse to Americans with disabilities, and hard-working families.

    THOUSANDS of SELLERS are being SUSPENDED, and stopped from selling, every day because of the following new rating system this year:

    For the 5 STAR Detailed Seller Ratings, SHIPPING TIME and SHIPPING CHARGES, many buyers are leaving 1 star only
    when they go to pick up an item within driving range or have someone else pick up heavy or large objects,
    especially when the buyer and seller live in the same city, and the item is large, like a SOFA or Iron Patio Set, and they leave only ONE STAR for SHIPPING TIME and ONE STAR for SHIPPING CHARGES because there were no shipping charges and the item was not shipped.
    So it's asking the buyer to answer a wrong question... wrongly.

    Also, when eBay buyers buy Consultation Services or any sale that is a product on the phone, or email,
    like Consultation Services, Advice, Psychic Readings, Electronic Files, Downloads, Computer Repair online,
    Screen Savers or other Graphic Arts or Services, Coupon Codes, Pre-Paid Cell Phone Minutes, that are transmitted by phone or email or by downloaded thru a web site,
    there are no shipping charges and no shipping time and buyers... wrongfully, and not knowing the consequences to eBay Sellers, sometime select/give: ONE STAR in the Shipping Charges and Shipping Time, simply because it does not apply to them they think,
    because there WAS NO/ WERE NO... Shipping Charges or Shipping Time.

    Then there is the problem of "perception" in different parts of the country and their use
    of the English Language:
    5 STARS to one buyer might mean to him that the SHIPPING CHARGE WAS HIGH, and to another buyer 5 STARS means the SHIPPING CHARGE was GREAT, meaning Good.
    A Buyer might leave ONE STAR for SHIPPING CHARGES because the Shipping Price was LOW.
    And another Buyer might leave ONE STAR for SHIPPING CHARGES because the Shipping Price was HIGH.

    The 5 STAR Detailed Seller Ratings are confusing to a lot of Buyers, and the Sellers are getting
    SUSPENDED from selling and their livelihoods are taken away when the 5 STAR Detailed Seller Ratings reach an average of 4 STARS. The Sellers are left with homes and warehouses full of merchandize that can no longer be sold on ebay. Sellers are losing their incomes and homes as well as not being able to sometimes pay for the all the wholesale items they have in their homes and businesses. This new eBay policy, this year, is affecting thousands of sellers. This also affects those that do not use proper English or may have diminished capacity or the disabled, that rely on many goods and services that they buy online due to handicaps sometimes, not being able to find or buy from eBay Sellers that are no longer able to sell because they were SUSPENDED, by eBay, and therefor either not being able to acquire the low price they have been accustomed to or simply not being able to obtain at ANY decent price the items that they need.

    Buyers are also CHOOSING the cheapest shipping, sometimes Media Mail, (instead of Priority Mail) which takes weeks to be delivered, and then they leave less than 5 STAR feedback, because of slow shipping, essentially putting an eBay Seller & another family completely out of business. The Buyers are never warned of this.

    This 5 STAR Rating System at eBay is causing mayhem, chaos and divorce in honest hard-working families.
    This 5 STAR Rating System at eBay MUST BE STOPPED IMMEDIATELY !

    Disgruntled buyers, no matter what the reason, even when they have been given a full refund,
    are allowed to post less than 5 stars, forcing the seller out of business when his average stars gets to 4 Stars.

    Ebay has a monopoly. If there was even another online auction/sales house that had half as many items or customers as eBay, the sellers would go there. But there is not.
    Thousands of sellers have garages and homes full of merchandise with no other outlet to sell at.
    When a seller is suspended from selling, eBay sometimes freezes their PayPal account, not allowing
    the seller, access to their funds.

    Many sellers are deaf or disabled and can only make a living on the Internet and eBay has a monopoly.
    eBay is the only place in the world that allows a few buyers to effective close a business down
    without even knowing it. The buyers have no idea that they are sending sellers to a watery grave.
    Nowhere in the world does a business hang an out-of-business sign because of a few buyers that wants
    everything cheaper and faster, except at eBay.





    (Please feel free to copy this and send to your State Attorney General, Legislators, Congressmen, Governors, Senators, State Policy makers and other Government officials and those that are charged with the welfare of the public.)
    MisterBrown
    • U S Congress Should Look into Ebay's Policies and Practice

      Ebay deserves to be investigated by the United States Congress for its monopoly and unfair market policies. Yes, it may be a private company but it is making use of a public platform- the internet- researched and developed using tax payers money. Ebay does not have the right to conduct business anyhow it wants without regard to fair business practices.

      Ebay has no regard for sellers, and buyers too. All it is interested is extorting money from either party, using its rather unfortunate position as the number ONE defacto online auction Site. Their policies, frankly are like something formulated by idiots. They are tyrannical and no one understands most of them nor what they are designed to achieve. Most times, their customer service agents, if you had the endurance, the long waite, and luck to get in touch with one, cannot explain why a certain action is taken. They do not seem to understand the rational for such actions, yet the unfortunate seller is at a loss as to what he did or did not do, or what he needs to do to remedy the supposed infringement, if any. Many good a seller has lost his/her means of livelihood because Ebay suspends him for reasons no one understands. Honestly, it is terribly high handed, if not a simple show of power and control.

      One would simply have left ebay but there is no where else to go. Online business and auctions have come to stay. Ebay's dominance of this platform, though unfortunate, should not be helpless. Ebay's founder should understand that he is now in America and things work differently. The market place is regulated by laws designed to protect public interest. It is un-American to allow one company to determine the fate of so many.
      Inforyde@...