In many ways, online auctions provide a business opportunity that is perfect for the Web. An auction site can charge both buyers and sellers to participate, and it can sell advertising on its pages. People interested in trading specific items can form a market segment that advertisers will pay extra to reach. Thus, the same kind of targeted advertising opportunities that search engine sites generate with their results pages are available to advertisers on auction sites. This combination of revenue-generating characteristics makes it relatively easy to develop online auctions that yield profits early in the life of the project.

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Origins of Auctions

In an auction, a seller offers an item or items for sale, but does not establish a price. This is called “putting an item up for bid” or “putting an item on the (auction) block.” Potential buyers are given information about the item or some opportunity to examine it; they then offer bids, which are the prices they are willing to pay for the item. The potential buyers, or bidders, each have developed private valuations, or amounts they are willing to pay for the item. The whole auction process is managed by an auctioneer. In some auctions, people employed by the seller or the auctioneer can make bids on behalf of the seller. These people are called shill bidders. Shill bidders can artificially inflate the price of an item and may be prohibited from bidding by the rules of a particular auction.

 

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