Sniping software is used in online auctions such as eBay. For a timed auction, sniping hardware allows a bidder to outbid another bidder at the last possible moment before the auction is closed. The software can be installed on your own computer or used by a web site to which you as a bidder might subscribe. The sniping websites are generally more successful than individual computers because they use more reliable servers and programs that have superior (decreased) reaction times.
Currently eBay allows sniping. Here are some comments/arguments against sites such as eBay allowing this practice.
Unfair to regular bidders: A person is no match for a computer in split-second timing. Even if the bidder were sitting at his computer at the moment the timed auction ended, his reaction time would be no match for the computer.
Unfair when the minimum bid increment is small: On eBay the bidder can set a secret maximum bid, and the eBay computer will bid for him as a surrogate bidder, increasing the bid by the minimum increment up to and including the maximum bid set by the bidder. This supposedly negates the unfairness of bidding against someone with sniping software. However, there is a problem if the minimum bid increment is small …say ten cents. This is because if is hard to imagine a bidder who would not be willing to pay ten cents more than his maximum bid to win the bid. The small increment makes it impossible to choose an effective maximum bid. So when the minimum bid increment is small, even on eBay, sniping is unfair.
Advantage to experienced bidders over those new to the site: Experienced bidders, especially those with sniping hardware have an advantage over newcomers.
Sniping adds an element to the bidding process of which many, if not a majority of bidders are unaware. One could say that the auction site that permits sniping is engaging in false advertising.
Sniping negates the concept of a true auction by humans interacting with one another. Instead, sniping allows computers to make bids with split-second timing, beating out humans who lack such light-speed reflexes.