June 10, 1998 9:15 AM PDT

Excite debuts auction service

Excite today rolled out an auction service that it hopes will attract Netizens eager to buy and sell goods on the Internet.

Using recently acquired Classifieds2000, an online classifieds listing service, Excite will feature real-time bidding for merchandise such as computers, toys, and collectibles.

Excite shoppers now will be able to browse through eight auction channels for classified advertisements with items on which they can bid. Vendors will be able to place ads with specified auction tags and will have the power to determine the auction price, the lowest bid price, and increments for bids.

"It's about taking the whole classifieds experience and expanding that to make it an auction experience," said Excite executive vice president Brett Bullington.

Today's announcement comes on the heels of Yahoo acquiring Viaweb, a maker of tools for building and operating e-commerce Web sites.

The auction service will be free for the first two months, supported by Portalopoly advertising, until it Excite can determine the most suitable business model, Bullington said. He noted that the new model will continue to use advertisements to keep the service free, but the firm is considering introducing transaction or access fees.

Consumer-oriented auctions have proven to be a big draw on the Net. Onsale last year rode the auction craze to a successful IPO and racked up the second-highest consumer sales online, after Amazon.com. Last month Onsale began auctioning condo units and announced a Japan auction venture with Softbank.

eBay, an older online auction site, has hired a consumer marketer as chief executive and is eyeing an IPO. The Internet Shopping Network, a subsidiary of the Home Shopping Network, jumped on the auction bandwagon last year with First Auction.

But the most similar effort to Excite's because of the classified ad linkage is Auction Universe, a Times Mirror-owned online auction site that involves nine metropolitan newspapers and online publishers.

While today's announcement from Excite was not in reaction to Monday's acquisition by competitor Yahoo, it may be an indication that portal sites are making moves to bring e-commerce to the hands of its users.

"Until the Yahoo acquisition, portals hadn't taken an active role in providing the tools necessary for commerce," said Derek Brown, an analyst with Volpe Brown Whelan. "[Portals] have generally been putting consumers in touch with products and [providing] more information about products."

 

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