No Breaks for eBay

A few years ago, the market cut AOL some slack because the medium was immature. eBay, with its recent outages, has had no such luck.
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Why were we so much more forgiving of

America Online

(AOL)

, when it had the grace and dexterity of the

New York Motor Vehicles Department

a few years ago, than we are of

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

now because of a couple of silly outages?

This question, posed to me by reader

James Sun

, may cut to the crux of what has happened to the Net in two short years.

Two years ago we were willing to cut AOL slack because the medium was immature and we accepted that it might not work right. We were willing to give a pioneer (I know, it is a closed system, blah, blah, blah) a chance because it was so revolutionary and growing so fast that you didn't want to dismiss the company. Also, AOL said it was going to spend and spend some more to get the problems ironed out.

But the Net is different now. We are spoiled. We have tasted its convenience and we don't accept outages any more. We have become unforgiving. It is a part of our routine and I don't think we even accept scheduled outages any more.

Sadly, I am not sure even eBay realizes how fast the Net has become part of our lives. Our tolerance for breakdowns is virtually nil. How bad is it? We view it as no more acceptable than going to a nearby

K-Mart

(KM)

and finding it closed. You ask someone why it is closed and he says "Dunno, they are all closed."

It is just plain unacceptable.

(I know at 1:33 p.m. today our site was slow. At 1:34 p.m. I was on the phone to everybody that matters about this stuff. All I could think about was eBay. It came roaring back, but I was dreading the possible consequences of a serious outage.)

I know I took some flack for selling my eBay some 30 points ago when Faye Landes, a retail analyst from

Thomas Weisel

, said that the stock should not be owned. She was worried about more outages. Great call.

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long America Online. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at

jjcletters@thestreet.com.