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What is an Internet Auction?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Also known as an online auction, the Internet auction is a private or public auction that takes place at a designated site on the World Wide Web. Auctions of this type account for a substantial amount of Internet sales revenue today, and make it possible for buyers and sellers all over the world to connect with ease. It is possible to sell anything at an online auction, with the offerings ranging from used clothing to mansions.

While each Internet auction site functions a little differently, most require that both buyer and seller be registered with the site before initiating or bidding on an auction. As part of the registration process, each party supplies a preferred user name, valid email address, and a password or pass phrase to use during the login process. Since most sites charge fees for sellers to post auctions, a seller account also requires supplying a credit or debit card that can be used to pay those fees. Buyers do not always have to supply payment data for permanent storage, although many auction sites do allow this option.

The process for an Internet auction is relatively simple. A seller creates the auction by providing details about the item up for bid. In most cases, a photo of the item is also uploaded and displayed on the auction page. The seller also sets a minimum bid that must be placed in order for anyone to win the auction, and selects a time frame for the auction to remain open. A typical Internet auction will run for three to seven days.

Registered buyers log into the Internet auction site, search through items currently offered for bidding, and place bids for anything that attracts their attention. If the buyer’s bid exceeds the minimum set by the seller and is not surpassed by any subsequent bids for the same auction, he or she wins the item at the close of the auction. At that point, payment is made to the seller and the item is shipped to the lucky winner.

With many Internet auction sites, registered users can be both buyers and sellers. Having one multipurpose account makes it easy to monitor all buying and selling activity with ease, which can help ensure payments on auctions won occur on time as well as managing any current items offered for sale. Some sites include a number of ways to customize the user interface so that all activity can be viewed on a single page rather than having to move through a series of pages to review bidding and selling activity.

While there are a number of different auction sites in use today, eBay® is easily one of the most well known of all online auction services. Many people operate stores as well as place items for auction on this site, while others routinely sell different items through the auction process each month, creating a steady part time income. Many other Internet auction sites have replicated the more popular features of eBay® while going after a niche clientele of some type.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon37495 — On Jul 20, 2009

Others only replicate eBay's format because it's really the only type that works, Having said that there a few different types out there which work well.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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