ebay Australia hits time snag

Online auctioneer eBay Inc. launched a New Zealand Web site last week, while being aware of a “frustrating” flaw – the site goes down for two hours at peak time on Friday nights.

In Auckland to launch the site, eBay Australia and New Zealand managing director Simon Smith revealed that the New Zealand site has downtime at about 8 p.m. – simultaneously with its other sites around the world. This is because the parent company hosts all the sites from servers in California, which back up at a quiet, early morning hour, its time. Smith says eBay has realized this is a bad time for Australia and New Zealand, and the company is preparing to move some servers so it gets redundancy for Australian and New Zealand business. Smith also notes that eBay Australia has found its busiest time is on Monday morning, when people get to work.

Smith says the two countries have been identified as prime markets – as one indicator, eBay already has 10 times more New Zealand members registered than Irish members, another country in which it is soon to launch.

“And Ireland is seen as one of the most forward countries in the world. New Zealanders really are recognized as early adopters,” he says.

eBay will not have any staff on the ground in New Zealand – a team of three or four will oversee problems and the quality of listings from Sydney.

Most of the auctions will be held in US dollars, and Smith asserts that this is because the majority of local traders prefer to trade in US dollars and take advantage of the exchange rate. eBay does not host its own currency conversion service.

Smith says eBay is not concerned about the popularity of local auction site Trade Me. EBay was the 27th auction site in Australia and overtook them all to become the market leader without a need for acquisitions, he says.

The company has partnered with Telecom New Zealand Ltd.’s Xtra on the site, www.eBay.co.nz, which highlights New Zealand-based trades. From this week Xtra will include eBay search boxes within its site. Smith says eBay is also planning a number of other partnerships.

Internationally, eBay has launched a standardized API developer program allowing other website operators to include eBay auctions on their sites. eBay has also unveiled a global deal to adopt Microsoft’s .Net development tools and to use XML to link users to its commerce server, saying this will extend its reach to devices such as pagers, hand-held computers and TV.

Both these features, and others such as sections for city or area-specific trades, will be introduced over the next few months, Smith says.

Last year eBay Australia, a joint venture between eBay US and Australian media company eCorp, traded goods to the value of A$25.6 million (US$12.6 million), while the eBay group traded goods to the value of US$5 billion.