IT big hitters to out-eBay eBay

Combined mini-auction sites ready to roll

eBay looks set to loose its monopoly on auctioning macabre items such as babies, kidneys, and the etchings of serial killers. A gaggle of IT companies including Microsoft, Dell, Lycos and Excite@Home are to attempt to compete with the giant online auction house by launching of a network of different tat-for-cash sites. It's believed this is the only viable way to compete with the dominance of eBay. To create a new single site to compete with the brand domination of eBay would simply be too costly with no guarantee of success, say industry watchers. Harnessing the strengths of individual sites by sharing sale items and buyers, on the other hand, is thought to be the way forward. In real terms it means that the complete works of folk rock legend Jethro Tull put up for sale on Dell's auction site, for example, would be also available to anyone accessing Excite@Home. According to the WSJthe company behind this bold initiative, Massachusetts-based FairMarket, will receive a flat fee for providing the service plus a one per cent cut of each transaction. "The only way to survive in the auction business is to be networked and to start something much bigger," Scott Randall, FairMarket's founder and chief executive told the WSJ. A full announcement about the new project is expected on Monday. ®

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