EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2166 - November 23, 2009     1 of 4

eBay Search Outage Brings Site to Standstill on Saturday

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Shopping on eBay came to a screeching halt on Saturday as the site experienced technical issues that prevented users from finding listings through the search and browse functions. eBay brought back "critical" search functionality overnight on Saturday, and it said it would return "secondary" search features on in a phased approach beginning on Sunday. eBay said the problem resulted from a surge in live listings as sellers ramped up for the holiday season.

According to eBay spokesperson John Pluhowski, eBay has over 200 million live listings on - Auctions, fixed price, and SIF (Store Inventory format) - which he said was 33 percent more than at this time one year ago. Over the past year, eBay has rolled out a special on-ramp for large retailers, manufacturers and liquidators called Large Merchant Services APIs.

In a post on the General Announcement board on Sunday evening, President of eBay Marketplaces Lorrie Norrington said eBay was assessing the economic impact of the technical issue and would be compensating sellers appropriately, and would be issuing full fee credits automatically for affected listings. eBay said sellers do not need to contact the company in order to receive a credit. The process of refunding sellers is expected to be completed within a week.

Auction Sellers Hard-Hit
eBay users were unable to find items through search or browse during Saturday's outage, but certain items were visible: eBay Daily Deals were accessible on the home page, and paid advertising listings that appear at the bottom of search results pages that lead to off-eBay websites were also accessible. In addition, shoppers could access listings if they knew the item number (if they had placed listings on their Watched lists or had previously bid on an item, for example).

According to eBay's user agreement, in the event of a hard outage of two hours or more, eBay is obligated to automatically extend listings for 24 hours and automatically credit all associated fees for affected listings. However, eBay did not extend auctions ending on Saturday, leaving some sellers complaining that they received far less for their auctions than they should have because bidders were unable to find their ending listings.

One AuctionBytes reader sent an example of why last-minute bidding is so important to auction sellers. This is a link to the bid history of an auction for an "Antique Singer Featherweight 221 Sewing Machine" that ended on November 10th. In the last hour of the listing, bidding went from $386 to $636, demonstrating the monetary value of last-minute bidding.

Store sellers were also impacted - Store listings were not included in the main "core" search results when eBay initially brought back search functionality on Saturday night, and it appeared they were still not showing at the bottom of core search results on Sunday evening.

Survey Measures Impact of Outage
AuctionBytes is surveying sellers to determine the impact Saturday's outage had and how they rated eBay's handling of the problem. Take the survey now

AuctionBytes Coverage of November 21 eBay Search Outage AuctionBytes published a blog post about the outage on Saturday afternoon, and continued to update it throughout the entire weekend. It had 250 comments by Sunday evening: "Major Search Outage Leaves eBay Shoppers Empty-Handed" (link to blog post).

AuctionBytes also published two articles about the outage on Sunday - "eBay Blames Search Outage on Listings Surge" (link to article), and "eBay Outage Leaves Holiday Shoppers (and Sellers) in the Lurch" (link to article).

Update 11/22/09: See latest news ("eBay Absolves Auction Sellers of Consequences from Site Outage").

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to

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