StuffBuff, a site that holds real-time auctions and provides tools to take sales viral, has launched its public beta, injecting some energy into the increasingly stale web auctioning space. The New York company isn’t being shy about competing with eBay, either.
Online auctions have always been a social experience. Even if buyers and sellers are not active on sites at the same time, they still communicate with one another, and even rate each other for the benefit of other users. But eBay has failed to take this model much further, despite the rise of social networking, real-time search and other sharing tools. It also sold off Skype, which could have pushed it in this direction.
The giant has even begun to move away from its auction model — once the core of its business. With the introduction of its “Buy It Now” button, eBay looks like it wants to compete with the likes of Amazon and other major e-commerce players. It has been inching toward more fixed-price listings ever since. In doing so, it seems to be making room for new, ambitious auction players.
StuffBuff is one of the most promising models to emerge. Capitalizing on people’s interest in real time, it allows users to hold auctions in chat rooms. Sellers are required to remain active in these rooms for the duration of the sale so that they can answer questions and provide additional information on the products in question. This means auctions are shorter and faster paced. The chat functionality can be viewed by everyone participating to prevent backdoor dealings.
StuffBuff also provides tools to publicize and expand auction audiences. It gives users the code they need to embed auction interfaces into web sites, blogs, and other sites. That way people can bid from web properties outside of StuffBuff, and they might be exposed to sales they wouldn’t have spotted otherwise. They can simply sign in using Facebook Connect or Twitter OAuth. All sales are brokered through PayPal.
Currently, the site offers two types of remote bidding widgets. LiveHaggle allows bidders to participate in a chat room with other potential buyers on any site where it is embedded. They type their bids straight into the chat window. The other widget, Blink!, doesn’t have a time limit. Buyers must outlast each other as the price of the product continues to drop. The more people still participating, the faster the price falls — the opposite of a regular auction model.
As a new entry into the online auction space, StuffBuff will not only have to distinguish itself from eBay. Other startups like Swoopo and Bonanzle are also looking to fill the space eBay is vacating as the leading auction house on the internet.
StuffBuff was selected as a TechCrunch50 company last year, it also took in $250,000 in seed funding from New York investor Michael Langer.