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Wed Jan 18 2006 09:15:41

Sknyping on eBay

By: Ina Steiner

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One of today's AuctionBytes Newsflash articles talks about eBay's PlaceOffer API call for bidding using devices like cable TV boxes and mobile phones. For instance, Unwired Buyer allows users to place bids on eBay listings with a mobile phone during the last minutes of the bidding process.

eBay doesn't allow sniping (scheduled bidding) through its API program. Buyers still snipe, but they either do it manually (they have to remember to log on at whatever time the auction is scheduled to end and place the bid), or use third-party sniping programs (not authorized by eBay, but tolerated thusfar).

Unwired Buyer is basically a reminder and bid-enabling service. It calls the buyer on her phone minutes before the auction is to end and gives her the high-bid information and the opportunity to bid through the phone. (The difference between Unwired Buyer and sniping programs is that the buyer is still manually placing the bid with Unwired Buyer, even though it is through a phone, not a computer.)

Why doesn't eBay like sniping? It's a very controversial practice and for first-time bidders, can be off-putting. Imagine being a first-time eBayer and being the high-bidder for a week on an item you really want. But you go to the auction after it ends and realize someone outbid you at the last minute.

However, once a buyer understands the practice, it's not so devastating, and some people have great fun with sniping. It's not inconceivable that eBay would someday allow authorized developers to create sniping tools through the API (PlaceOffer would be the enabling call).

Given eBay's acquisition of Skype, an Internet telephony company, maybe someday there will be scheduled bidding on Skype phones. (A slew of Skype-enabled cell phones was announced this month at the Consumer Electronics Show.) If so, would it be called Sknyping?

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