Ebay’s audience remains one of the most attractive under-utilised communities on the internet.

To power its sites, which let buyers trawl for goods to buy from millions of different sellers, it has built a search engine to compare with those of the big web search firms, at least in terms of scale.

According to Ebay executives, the 350m searches a day carried out on its sites rivals the number of searches on Google.

However, for Ebay, “monetising” those searches by placing ads in front of shoppers raises some difficult questions.

Sellers pay listing fees for the privilege of having their goods displayed on Ebay and included in its internal search results. Putting ads on these pages could frighten buyers away, creating a form of competition that would weaken the value of an Ebay listing.

Executives of both Ebay and AOL made clear yesterday that they would tread carefully. While Yahoo will supply graphical, or “branded”, advertising to all Ebay sites, the search ads will be limited.

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