Each of these three companies—NTE, Adauction and Chemdex—exemplifies an
            entirely new sort of business that uses the Internet to change the way markets
            operate. Ms Lief of Forrester Research identifies three new business-to-business
            market models. First, there are aggregators, such as Chemdex, which help buyers in
            fragmented markets select products by providing up-to-the minute price and product
            information and a single contact point for service. Next, there are online auctioneers,
            such as Adauction, which offer a reliable channel for sellers to dispose of
            perishable or surplus goods or services at the best possible prices, and for buyers to
            get bargain prices without taking a leap into the unknown. And lastly, there are
            exchanges, such as NTE, that create liquidity in otherwise fragmented markets, lower
            average stock levels by matching bid/ask offers and act as neutral third parties,
            enforcing market rules and settlement terms.

            Ms Lief argues that over time these distinct business models will tend to merge. For
            example, MetalSite, which creates a market for buyers and sellers of surplus and
            secondary steel, is already both an aggregator and an auctioneer. What all these new
            businesses have in common is that, in one form or another, they consolidate buyers
            and sellers in markets that are fragmented either geographically or because of the
            absence of any dominant firms. Together, they sail under the name of
            “infomediaries”, a word coined by John Hagel of McKinsey—intermediaries who
            sell information about a market and create a platform on which buyers and sellers
            can do business.

            Initially, infomediaries were mainly a consumer phenomenon, typified by early...