David Gelernter reviews “The Perfect Store”,a book on eBay, and gives his opinion on the company and online auctions:
EBay has no inventory, doesn’t actually sell anything itself, but collects a commission on every sale. Obviously, this company is important. Some 75,000 Americans now run businesses entirely on eBay’s sites. EBay strides through the world economy like a movie star, surrounded by its horde of dependent businesses, its buyers, sellers, critics and rapturous fans.
But the story leaves you pondering. The Web supposedly began a new information age, but eBay brings nothing of its own to the table; it simply connects people. It uses cyberspace not as a library but as a giant switchboard. And this era of the Great Switchboard in the Sky has barely begun. When I said in a 1991 book that global electronic auctions were inevitable (one prophetic claim plus 75 cents will get you today’s newspaper), I meant four related activities: buyers bidding to get goods or services from a seller; sellers bidding to supply goods or services to a buyer. So far, eBay concentrates only on buyers bidding for goods, but the rest will follow. And it won’t stop there. People will consult the great cyberswitchboard to get a job or a mate or a life. (It’s already happening.)
EBay makes money by brokering deals. But what happens when buyers and sellers cut out the middleman and deal direct? At eBay you search for the item you want. But you can also search the Web as a whole. In the long run, we won’t need two separate levels of search. Eventually we will use the fabric of cyberspace itself, not eBay, as our switchboard.
Earlier post on Adam Cohen’s review of the book.