EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 133 - December 19, 2004 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 7

Less stress in your life with the eBay toolbar

By Mark O'Neill

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A lot of people are suspicious of toolbars due to online privacy concerns, and for good reason. By their very nature, toolbars have to be able to monitor your activity so they can remember your preferences and do their job. So toolbars need to be able to download a small program and cookies to your computer to be able to work. Common sense is needed in these situations: can the company be trusted? Do you feel comfortable with this? Be selective in the toolbars you download and make sure the company is reputable and accountable.

As far as eBay's Toolbar is concerned, eBay spokesperson Hani Durzy said, "eBay Toolbar is only downloaded with your consent and does not collect any personal information."

He said the eBay Toolbar is designed to be used in conjunction with the eBay site; accordingly, your use of eBay Toolbar is also defined by the eBay User Agreement and Privacy Policy, which can be found online at http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/privacy-policy.html.

With that warning out of the way, what are the advantages of the eBay toolbar? Let's take a look. First though, a disclaimer. I used the German eBay toolbar, which may differ from the U.S. eBay toolbar; and I no longer use the toolbar because I now use a different Internet browser, and eBay's toolbar only works on Microsoft Explorer.

The first feature is an eBay search engine so you can search for items even if you're not on the eBay website. You can search by title or description and even a search within a certain category. This is good for urgent "I need to know now!" searches.

You can also virtually get your "My eBay" page features on the toolbar. You can access the items you're bidding on, the current prices of the items you are selling, the items you've been outbid on, and also access to your eBay favorites. Again, if you're on a different website, being able to access this information from the toolbar saves time and effort, especially if you need the information in a hurry.

You can also jump at the click of a button to other areas of the eBay website, including eBay Announcements, the Community section or even Paypal to pay for your auctions.

But the two best features of the eBay Toolbar (in my opinion) are Alerts and Account Guard.

Alerts are pop-up boxes on your browser that tell you things like when auctions you are bidding on or watching are about to end. If you're very busy, it's all too easy to forget that auctions are ending soon, so it's good to receive a pop-up reminder. You also get an alert if you have been outbid on an item. If you are too busy to respond to an alert, you can hit a "snooze" button that makes the alert go away and then come back to remind you again in a few minutes.

Despite all these features, the most valuable feature of all is Account Guard. I'm sure we've all been victims of "phishing" - you get the email from "eBay Security" telling you your account is in trouble and you should click on the link in the email to "update your features." If you click on the link, you are taken to what appears to be the eBay site. It looks official, it has all the right logos and features, but in reality, you're not on the official eBay site. You're on a fake site with a cloaked URL (a cloaked URL is when you see http://www.ebay.com on the URL line, but that is a fake URL hiding the real website name behind it). The eBay toolbar's Account Guard feature tells you if you are on the official eBay site or not. If the toolbar is green, then you're on eBay, no problem. If the toolbar is red, then you're on a fake site and you should get off the site and change your password.

Account Guard also lets you report fake sites to eBay - again, at the click of a button. Account Guard won't stop the emails, but you will know immediately that the site you're being sent to is a fake.

Note that eBay has modified the toolbar since I last used it 3 months ago (http://auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y04/m12/i13/s01).

You can take the toolbar tour and see for yourself if the toolbar is right for you. After all, we could all do with a little less stress in our eBay buying and selling.

http://pages.ebay.com/eBay_toolbar

NOTE: Toolbars requires you to download software and they utilize memory resources on your computer, so use common sense about whether they are right for you.


About the author:

Mark O'Neill is Managing Editor of the popular tech blog, MakeUseOf.com. He is a Scotsman, now living the ex-pat life in Wurzburg, Germany. You can also find him on MarkO'Neill.org.


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