Living with the Internet: Online shopping
Living with the Internet: Online shopping

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Living with the Internet: Online shopping

3 What's going on with eBay

eBay is a huge database with a Web interface. (A database is a collection of information organised in such a way that a computer program can quickly retrieve desired pieces of data.) The database is continually being updated as people add items, and bid for them, and as auctions open and close. The software includes database software and web-serving software and runs on a large cluster of powerful servers. It is a formidably complex system and although eBay had some teething problems in its early years – system failures cost the company millions of dollars in lost revenues – it is now impressively robust and resilient.

As with most successful e-business services, eBay conceals all this background complexity from the end-user. A great deal of effort has gone into making the process of buying and selling as obvious and painless as possible. A measure of the success of this effort is the apparent ease with which millions of novice users engage in online transactions.

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