AltaVista signs deals with two auction sites

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based portal has created two co-branded areas within its Shopping.com site for AuctionWatch and uBid.

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AltaVista has expanded its presence in the auction arena, announcing one-year deals with AuctionWatch and uBid.

As part of the deals, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based portal has created two co-branded areas within its Shopping.com site. Through Shopping.com's "Web-wide auction" area, AltaVista visitors can access AuctionWatch's auction search, image hosting and message board features. AltaVista visitors can access uBid's auctions via a "bargain auction" tab on Shopping.com.

Unlike portals such as Yahoo or the Microsoft Network, which have set up their own auction sites, AltaVista decided to take a different approach, said Mike Rubin, executive vice president for marketing and e-commerce at AltaVista.

"We believe we are a resource for the Web," Rubin said. "We don't necessarily see ourselves as an auction destination. We see ourselves as a place for consumers to find information."

AltaVista and AuctionWatch declined to discuss the financial details of the deals, which were announced yesterday.

The AuctionWatch-AltaVista deal comes as the future of auction search engines, such as the one offered by AuctionWatch, is in the hands of the courts.

A federal court recently issued an injunction against Bidder's Edge, forbidding the AuctionWatch rival from using "automatic" methods to comb eBay's auctions.

eBay sued Bidder's Edge in December, charging that Bidder's Edge's searches amounted to trespassing and slowed services for eBay members. Despite eBay's efforts to block AuctionWatch, the San Bruno, Calif.-based auction portal continues to search eBay's auctions in a similar fashion as Bidder's Edge.

Rubin said the battle between eBay and the auction portals did not weigh into AltaVista's decision to work with AuctionWatch.

"It's up to AuctionWatch to manage its relationships," he said.

CMGI bought AltaVista last summer, and CMGI's @Ventures unit has invested in AuctionWatch. When CMGI bought uBid earlier this year, the company said it would use its network of companies to drive traffic to the auction site.

Despite the family ties, Rubin said CMGI did not play a big part in the deals.

"It's nice that they are part of the CMGI family, but I wouldn't say that this was initiated through CMGI," Rubin said.

AltaVista's deal with AuctionWatch is only the latest effort by an auction portal to team with a bigger Internet player.

Earlier this year, GoTo.com bought AuctionRover. And software company OpenSite agreed to buy Bidder's Edge.

Bidder's Edge later called off the deal when Siebel Systems announced an agreement to buy OpenSite.