EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2165 - November 21, 2009     2 of 2

eBay Blames Search Outage on Listings Surge

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eBay issued a statement to AuctionBytes this evening after a glitch caused a major outage to its search and browse functions that left shoppers unable to find listings. According to company spokesperson John Pluhowski, "The unanticipated technical issue resulted from a surge in live listings as sellers ramp up for the holiday season." According to Pluhowski, eBay had over 200 million live listings, 33 percent more than at this time a year ago. He went on to state that full functionality should be restored by Sunday, as the fix for the technical issue was being implemented across the site.

Mr. Pluhowski said the 200 million live listings refers to - Auctions, fixed price, and SIF (Store Inventory format).

He did not explain how a 33 percent increase in listings could bring the site to a virtual standstill for an entire day during its busiest shopping season. He did say that eBay would be issuing refunds to sellers, but did not yet provide details.

eBay's large increase in listings has much to do with an onramp it created this year for major retailers to load inventory onto the site. The eBay Large Merchant Services APIs (LMS) were launched in beta testing in December 2008, and eBay has been ramping it up throughout the year, and attending retail conferences to attract major companies to its site.

To get a sense of the scale of LMS, here is an excerpt of eBay's instructions to corporations who want to load inventory to the site:

You work for an extremely large corporation, and the managers have just proposed that you put your company's inventory on the eBay site to increase your web visibility and online sales. You have separate catalogs for clothing, hardware, housewares, and electronics. You have 150 separate types of items in your clothing catalog, such as shirts, dresses, and hats. Most of those items have 24 SKUs each: gold, blue, brown, and green in x-small, small, medium, large, 1X, and 2X. (Each color/size/type combination will have a different SKU number.)

Therefore, you will want to add approximately 3,600 listings, just for your clothing catalog. Each listing will have multiple items of the same size, color, and type. For instance, you may have 10 medium-size, gold shirts that you want to add to the eBay site. You would create this as a single listing for the medium/gold/shirt SKU, and set the quantity to 10.

If we expand this model to include all of your catalog items, you may have between 14,000 and 15,000 listings to add to the eBay site, and each of these listings is a multi-quantity listing.

In addition, eBay also opened its platform to third-party developers this year to let them create selling applications available right on through its Selling Manager software. Sellers are always nervous about eBay making changes around the holidays, and much to their dismay, eBay introduced a new Cross Merchandising feature on Tuesday.

AuctionBytes will continue to cover the outage through updates on its blog and through Twitter.

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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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