When times get tough, second-hand goods become much more enticing. Whether this is behind eBay's much better than expected results, I don't know -- but it's a good idea well implemented that does something you just can't do in any other way. Just goes to show that common sense still counts for a lot when having the 'is the Internet dead in the water?' post-boom discussion. It remains vulnerable to one big thing, though: fraud. There's a lot of it about, as you can check for yourself by typing 'eBay fraud' into news.google.com. People know this and eBay seems to becoming adept at walking the fine line between over-publicising the fact that fraud exists and keeping people informed about how to cope with it. As long as people make the assessment that they're no more likely to be ripped off than if they buy stuff in shops -- or if they are, that the increased availability of the stuff they really want compensates for the extra risk -- then eBay will flourish. If someone you know's been ripped off, though, you won't touch it with a bargepole. Meanwhile, it's proving an excellent site for research. Type 'surreal' into the site, and you'll find that almost nobody knows what the word actually means -- and indeed, some of the stuff so described is much weirder than anything Breton cooked up. And any planet that can create a Barbie Neck Pillow and sell it for a dollar is a place beyond price. Forget sending picture disks of our culture out to the aliens, strapped to the sides of interplanetary probes: we should immediately start beaming the eBay database into space from Arecibo. That'll show the greys.