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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Tech Industry

Auction service sites flow on the Net

A cottage industry is being built around the success of online auctions as a slew of new sites begin to provide information and services to auction surfers and buyers.

A cottage industry is being built around the success of online auctions as a slew of new sites begin to provide information and services to auction surfers and buyers.

The proliferation of auction service sites comes as Net auctions are skyrocketing in popularity. Forrester Research reports that the collective user base of eBay, uBid, and Onsale grew from 750,000 in 1997 to 3.4 million in 1998. eBay says its user base now stands at some 5.6 million.

Meanwhile, Gomez Advisors projects the consumer auction market will grow from $1.57 billion in 1998 to $15.5 billion in 2001.

One of the more popular sites in that class, AuctionWatch.com, today relaunched its site, adding new content and services. The redesign features original auction news and reviews of such auction sites as eBay. In an interview, an AuctionWatch executive said the company has also upped its server capacity by a factor of 10 to handle increasing site traffic.

eBay users often turn to AuctionWatch's message board to vent frustrations during the auction leader's frequent outages. But the site also provides a place where auction users can discuss new features of various sites and bidding and selling strategies.

Joining AuctionWatch in efforts to provide services for online auction users is Bidder's Edge, which now offers a comparison shopping tool that allows bidders to search across multiple auction sites for an item. Auction Guide has information about on- and offline auction sites and tips for buyers and sellers.

In addition, ZCurve Software recently introduced the Auction Browser, a tool that allows users to track auctions on eBay.

AuctionWatch cofounder and chief executive Rodrigo Sales said the company will continue adding new features to the site in coming months, noting it's only debuted about a quarter of all planned content. In addition to news, reviews, and message boards, the site provides a service that counts how many times users view a seller's auction item.

"We believe we are the authority on online auctions," Sales said. "We understand what these auction users are looking for."

As the online auction market expands, there will be more room for sites that offer services for auction users, said Forrester analyst Evie Black Dykema.

"There's absolutely a market there," Dykema said. "Consumers will flock toward any tools that will help them simplify the auction process."

And though eBay dominates the auction space, aficionados are looking for specialty sites that may provide more selection than eBay does, she said.