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This and that

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on January 21, 2005
(Issue 2303, Reach Out and Touch Someone)

Time to catch up with the in-box, and take a quick look at a few recent developments:

As I write this (Dec. 23), Google is inaccessible and so are parts of Yahoo. Don't know yet if they're being targeted by denial of service attacks or if it's just really heavy holiday traffic, but Yahoo mail and Yahoo Greetings are as impossible to get into as is Google and its Gmail site.

But it's frustrating as all heck, that's for sure! (Postscript: Turns out later, my ISP was targeted by DOS attacks; why I could still get into other sites than those above is a mystery to me, however.)

More eBay alternatives

Ray Vance wrote in to suggest that those who are tired of eBay's policies might want to try Craig's List. Not having been there, I swung by for a visit – and found a vibrant online community similar to the pre-Web bulletin board systems (BBSs).

Founded by Craig Newmark in 1995, Craig's List is organized by city – and there are dozens of cities with Craig's List communities online (including all three ComputorEdge cities – San Diego, Denver and Albuquerque).

Each online community has, as Ray pointed out, a free classified ad section. Not only can you sell or buy stuff, as on eBay, but there are also job postings and singles ads – just like the classifieds in the local paper.

But beyond the ads are the other areas that make for a real community, primarily the discussion boards, where you can get involved with ongoing conversations about almost anything.

Ray also suggested that folks looking to self stuff might want to list their item for sale on – but not the Amazon auctions. Rather, he suggests selling the item for a fixed price. It may not sell quickly (one of the benefits of the auctions), but Amazon handles all the transaction details (creating the listing, credit cards, etc.), and then tells you where to ship the item when it does sell.

David Hay wrote in to say he's posted contact info for eBay for other sellers and/or buyers who get in a dispute and can't resolve it through normal channels.

Finally, eBay itself has launched a new tool for sellers – Pulse. eBay touts Pulse as "a daily snapshot of The World's Online Marketplace." Pulse contains info on the most popular searches in each category, what the most-watched listings are, and what the largest stores in each category are.

PayPal alternatives

Thomas Convenant sent an e-mail letting us know of two related alternatives to eBay's PayPal online payment service.

Western Union now owns BidPay, an online auction payment service. If you're selling, BidPay can be used as simply as PayPal on eBay, Amazon auctions and Yahoo! auctions. As with PayPal, you can use BidPay to accept credit cards without having to have a merchant account. BidPay charges you a small transaction fee for processing a credit card or debit card purchase, then deposits the net into your bank account.

When debuted a few years back, it offered a unique niche – a place for people to sell their used movies and CDs. The name of the site referred to the fact that at first, all items had to be sold for half list price or less. grew like crazy, and eventually was purchased by eBay. Last year, eBay announced it was closing – but rescinded that decision when users protested. While eBay now does allow set-price sales with no closing date (much as offers), the fact is that most folks look for set-price items on and auctions at eBay.

Yahoo! and maps

Yahoo! recently announced a new way to find a map to any address: From the Yahoo! search page, type "map" plus the address you want to map, then hit "Enter" on your keyboard. I've tried it, and it works well.

Google also tends to offer a map as the first search result when you type in an address, so both main search engines now integrate maps very tightly into their search algorithms.