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eBay suffers prolonged outage

The company posts a message saying the outage "looks like a hardware failure." Angry users are flooding message boards on AuctionWatch and Yahoo.

eBay users got an unpleasant surprise this morning when they tried to log on to the popular auction site: all auctions were inaccessible, due to a database server outage that lasted several hours.

According to the company's announcement board, which was accessible only intermittently throughout the morning, engineering staff was investigating the problem, which the company said "looks like a hardware failure."

The company first alerted users to the problem at 5:45 a.m. PT, although some users on the East Coast said they had tried to log on earlier without success. At 8:45 a.m. PT, a message from eBay said, "The news is not good. A system board is being replaced, and we will be down a little longer." The site finally came back online at about 10:55 a.m. PT, according to eBay.

A hardware failure also took down the site last Friday, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. PT, said eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove.

Angry users complained about the outage on message boards dedicated to eBay throughout the Internet, including AuctionWatch and Yahoo.

Roger Baumann, an eBay user from Miami, logged on to the auction site at 2 a.m. PT today to check on a Steiff teddy bear he'd bid on for his son. He was unable to participate further in the auction, which was scheduled to end an hour later.

eBay has extended all auctions that were scheduled to end between 5:30 a.m. PT and noon PT, but that won't help Baumann--the teddy bear auction had closed.

"This is infuriating," he said. "It was just the worst timing possible."

Baumann said he was surprised that a company with the resources of eBay wasn't able to ensure that its servers operate at all times. "The company is worth billions of dollars selling Beanie Babies--they should have some serious infrastructure," he said.

But other eBay users were unfazed by the outage, saying the company's service has improved measurably since the early days. "These outages from time to time are but a blip of what it was like in the near beginning," wrote one user on AuctionWatch. "With as much as eBay is used, I am shocked that they are running as well as they are."

Users need to understand how much demand there is for information on eBay's site, said Purglove. "Ours is an incredibly dynamic Web site, unlike a lot of static Web sites," he said. "We're getting 600 bids every single minute and 1.9 million items up there on any given day."