EBay and Half.com to Combine Sites

SAN JOSE, Calif. — EBay and Half.com, an eBay-owned Web site that offers products at set prices, will be combined, executives said at the company’s annual meeting Friday.

Ebay chief executive and president Meg Whitman said it didn’t make sense to have eBay and Half.com remain separate platforms, with users having different identities and reputations on each site.

Whitman said people tend to find that eBay has a more user-friendly interface than Half, while selling products on Half.com is much easier. Sellers on Half.com can upload information about products from their numbered bar codes, while eBay users must have to write out the descriptions of the items they’re listing for auction.

Of course, items in many of eBay’s most popular categories, such as art and antiques, do not have bar codes, which would make the Half.com method impossible. But Whitman recently told The Associated Press that “you will see some technology transfer (from Half to eBay) over time.”

EBay’s head of technology, Maynard Webb, said his staff — and the outside developers in the company’s initiative to link its trading platform to other sites — are already working on ways to integrate Half into eBay.

Whitman confirmed Friday that eBay plans to begin offering sellers “storefronts,” entire pages to themselves, in the next quarter. The move has been expected for months.

She also said in response to a shareholder’s question that eBay has a “significant lobbying effort for a company our size” aimed at persuading Congress to keep Internet commerce free of new taxes.

If the government were to impose a special sales tax on e-commerce transactions, Whitman said she doesn’t believe it necessarily would “fundamentally change the marketplace on eBay.”

Whitman she added that she would not want eBay to be responsible for cataloging and reporting tax information on the millions of transactions it facilitates.

Shares of eBay were down $1.51 to $61.75 in late trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

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