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eBay cuts off outside search service

The leading online auctioneer is clamping down on outside companies that use search engines to find items for sale on its site, arguing that the technology affects site performance.

Leading online auctioneer eBay is clamping down on outside companies that use search engines to find items for sale on its site, arguing that the technology affects site performance.

The move is one of several recent decisions by eBay to control how outsiders use information posted by auction holders and bidders on its site.

Bidder's Edge, which provides auction services to customers, is the first to comply with eBay's wishes, posting a note on their site that reads: "At eBay's request, its auctions are not currently included in our search results."

"They asked and we complied," said Bidder's Edge chief executive James Carney.

Richard Rock, eBay's business development director, said the company is discussing ending the search service with eight other auction services sites.

Rock said it is "a difficult decision" to do so. But he said that as search engines crawl across the eBay site in search of Civil War memorabilia or Beenie Babies, the process slows the browsing experience for eBay's customers.

Not so, say industry analysts, who claim the so-called meta searches should not put a drain on eBay's servers. All these services do is gather listings for items that are available at different auction sites, analysts say.

While Bidder's Edge and other search services do not need legal permission to search the auction site, excluding eBay from these searches puts a damper on their usefulness, according to at least one customer.

"I think [getting eBay results] is essential," said Steven Troester, a Bidder's Edge customer, in an email interview. "Not having their data in Bidder's Edge probably cuts out over 50 percent of the available auctions," he said.

eBay's Rock said other sites they've contacted about stopping searches on eBay haven't been "really excited" about the idea.

"eBay has such a large share of the market that any meta search that is not having eBay results show up will lose this large percentage of the market," said Rodrigo Sales, chief executive of AuctionWatch, which provides auction news and reviews.

However, eBay's importance to auction services companies may lessen in the future as business-to-business and merchant auctions grown in importance. These companies will be able to take advantage of a host of new services to support that market growth, Sales said.

"I don't think it will necessarily be damaging to eBay, which will continue to grow at a strong rate," Sales said. "But simply the rest of the market will grow at a much faster pace."