All bidding was suspended at Ebay on Thursday evening as the giant Internet auction house struggled to rebuild a corrupted computer server that disrupted bidding on millions of collectibles and curios of all kinds. It is expected to remain down until midday Friday.
Such outages may be commonplace at Web sites, but this is Ebay, one of the top 10 businesses on the Internet -- with profits of $5.9 million reported for the first quarter of 1999 -- and every major disruption can have huge ramifications. One of the worst previous outages prevented Ebay from hosting auctions of just-released merchandise tied to the latest "Star Wars" movie, sending customers to rival Amazon.com in droves.
"We're sorry, but the Ebay system is temporarily unavailable," the company said in one of many updates posted on the site since the problems began at around 6 p.m. Thursday. "We extend our utmost apologies for this inconvenience." An updated posted at 7 a.m. Friday read: "The resolution of the problem continues. The system disk is being rebuilt and data transferred from the backups ... This entire process may still take a few hours yet."
All auctions remained suspended during the shutdown, and will be extended by 24 hours after service is restored so that nobody's bidding opportunities will be lost, the company said. The outage occurred the same day Ebay launched a new site design.
A call to company representatives was not immediately returned, but a customer service representative who would only give her name as Doris said the site was receiving e-mail inquiries from customers.
The company's Internet auction site runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It lists more than 2 million items, including antiques, books, computers, toys and sports memorabilia that can be purchased through a bidding process.
Ebay reported that the number of registered users on its site as of March 31 reached 3.8 million, almost double the 2.1 million registered users during the three-month period that ended Dec. 31, 1998.
The company, which saw more than $541 million in merchandise auctioned off through 22.9 million separate transactions during the first quarter of this year, earns a percentage on each sale.