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eBay bids for services

The online auction giant opens its marketplace to providers of services such as Web site development, graphics design and language translation.

    eBay, the home of everything from Beanie Babies to '57 Chevrolets, is opening its marketplace to providers of services such as Web site development, graphics design and language translation.

    The San Jose, Calif.-based company launched a business services section on its Web site Monday in conjunction with eLance. The area links to auctions on eBay as well as to listings on eLance.

    "This introduction was prompted by the desire to give buyers and sellers of business services a more robust trading environment," eBay said in a note to members on its announcements board. "eBay is working with eLance to provide members with greater options for buying and selling business services."

    Some eBay members have already auctioned services on the leading auction site, said company spokesman Kevin Pursglove. By teaming with eLance, eBay hopes to jump-start the sale of services on its site and continue to expand its marketplace, he added.

    "We think there's going to be opportunity here to bring together their marketplace and our community of 22 million users, Pursglove said.

    The sale of services--everything from legal advice to yard cleaning--represents the lion's share of the offline economy. In recent years, start-ups such as Imandi.com, Exp.com, Keen and eLance have set up Web sites to pair service sellers with service seekers. In many cases, such sites use a reverse-auction format, where someone seeking a service gives details on the project they would like to have done and solicits competitive bids.

    But the sale of services has been slow to gain traction on the Web. And, like other Net start-ups, some service sites have struggled in recent months. Exp.com, for instance, laid off 15 percent of its staff in December.

    The initial stage of the deal involves simple links between eBay's and eLance's Web sites. But the two companies are exploring ways to more fully integrate their sites, including sharing feedback ratings, listings and payment services, said eLance Chief Executive Eric Roach.

    "What you're seeing right now, this is the very first cut or iteration," he said. "This is going to improve as our relationship progresses."

    The two companies declined to give details on their deal, but Roach said that eBay did not take an equity stake in eLance as part of it.