Firsthand reports from 24/7 Wall St. and social media information website Mashable say the the search function of eBay (EBAY) was down for several hours on Saturday. The search feature is critical to aiding shoppers in finding products, and navigating eBay without it is extremely difficult.
The eBay problem is another example of how server issues, software problems or attacks on a company's website by hackers can compromise or shut down a service. It is not clear what happened at eBay during the hours that its search feature was disabled, but as the holidays approach, what is clear is that an interruption of the service could cost the company -- and the firms that use its auction system to sell their products -- tens of millions of dollars.
It is not unusual for for the largest e-commerce website to run slowly or collapse from surges in traffic on heavy shopping days. With Thanksgiving coming, eBay management will be under a great deal of pressure to see that it does not happen again.
Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.