Outbid Uses HTML5 to Take Auctions to a New Level

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2013-03-05 Email Print this article Print
HTML5 auctions

This real-time online auction site deployed next-generation capabilities, including instant bidding, rapid transactions, gaming features and live chat.

By Samuel Greengard

Few industries are as dependent on fast, efficient Websites and IT systems as online auctioneers. It's not an exaggeration to say that the ability to offer near-zero latency and the highest levels of transparency and security are critical.

"It's the difference between operating profitably and failing," points out Bob Lee, chief product officer at Outbid, a real-time online auction site that connects buyers and sellers in an online atmosphere that's designed to be fun and social.

Outbid, which operates a live-auction platform with auctioneers and fast-paced bidding, has hundreds of participants bidding against each other at any given moment. It initially turned to Adobe Flash as its auction client when the company went live in 2011.

"It was necessary to have technology in place that could register the bid centrally and rebroadcast it out to everyone correctly, while handling rich visual and audio capabilities," Lee explains. "We needed a system that could manage everyone and prevent people from stepping all over each other while an auction is taking place."

That auction client helped the firm get out of the starting blocks, but as HTML5 emerged and browsers began to support more advanced feature sets, Lee felt there was a need to switch to a lighter-weight and more powerful system. Last December, he began experimenting and prototyping using Kaazing's HTML5 WebSocket.

"It supports the next-generation capabilities we require, including instant bidding, rapid transactions, gaming features and live chat," Lee says. The package also delivers robust security, emulation and API libraries.

Moreover, the technology provides low-level communication between clients and servers without intervention at the network stack level. "This was an issue in the past," he explains. "We are now able to concentrate on our business function without a lot of distractions."

In addition, because Outbid's platform is sometimes used behind corporate firewalls, a consistent set of services running on the standard HTTP Port 80 were essential. "The ability to use a standard port provides a much higher level of security," Lee adds. The firm is also eliminating the use of cross-domain XML file loading, which some corporate clients blocked for security reasons.

Outbid is also using open-source WebRTC to enable real-time communication (RTC) capabilities, including audio and video, via Javascript APIs. "It is important to build in a tremendous amount of functionality on both the bidder and auctioneer side," Lee says.

Finally, the company, which already has an iOS app in place for iPhones and iPads, is working to extend mobile capabilities to Android devices. Additional advantages of the platform include rapid prototyping, managing bandwidth efficiently, support for legacy browsers without application code changes and the ability to scale connections with the least amount of infrastructure.

To be sure, it's a winning approach for Outbid. "The system operates in a far more automated and efficient way," Lee says. "It will provide a more robust and streamlined environment that delivers high performance, low maintenance and the level of security that's critical.

"The goal is to provide a leading-edge auction experience that makes the technology completely transparent."

Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.

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