RealTime IT News

Taking Aim at Auction Sniping

"Your bid is still the highest as the auction is about to close. You wait excitedly by your computer expecting to be notified that you've won, but ... somehow you've lost. In the last seconds of the auction a new bid has appeared, too late for you to respond. You've been sniped." - from the AuctionSniper.com Web site.

Auction sniping -- the online auction crowd loves it or hates it, and sometimes both at the same time. The technology, which developed along with the success of companies like eBay , has been around for a while now and in fact it has spawned a cottage industry of sorts.

Sniping technology essentially automates the process of placing bids on Internet auctions. It can put your bid in during the last few seconds of an auction. The user gets to mask his or her interest in the item being auctioned off, avoid a bidding war, and then swoop in at the last second to scoop up a bargain.

The applications are getting ever more sophisticated and the stakes are getting higher as the auction business has grown. Most sniping apps and/or services require the user to fork over a piece of the action - albeit a small piece.

These days, outfits like eSnipe, which is getting ready to release v3.0 of its eponymous product, are even hiring PR types.

Lots of other small companies are in this space, too, including Auction Sniper, AuctionStealer, AuctionBlitz, AuctionTamer, Bidnapper, HammerTap with its HammerSnipe product, an outfit called iSnipeIt and no doubt a number of others.

Some offer multi-auction site tools. Some even cover international sites and have built-in currency converters.

Sniping is an online-auction cultural phenomenon, according to Ina Steiner, editor of auction info site AuctionBytes.com. It doesn't exist in real-world auctions, which are usually short and sweet, unlike online auctions, which go on for days. Online bidders can get shareware programs or subscription-based services -- programs you load on your computer or outsourced services that will place bids for you.

Some of the outsourced services have high-speed connections that they claim allow them to place bids just seconds before the end of an auction.

Is it fair? Probably not if you've been sniped. But there are anti-sniping techniques, too -- and some sellers have reportedly found they can buy merchandise using a sniper app or service, then turn around and sell it for more on the same auction site.

How auction giant eBay fits into the sniping...