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166
Internet Advertising and the Generalized Second Price Auction: Selling Billions of Dollars Worth of Keywords
 American Economic Review
, 2005
"... We investigate the “generalized secondprice ” (GSP) auction, a new mechanism used by search engines to sell online advertising. Although GSP looks similar to the VickreyClarkeGroves (VCG) mechanism, its properties are very different. Unlike the VCG mechanism, GSP generally does not have an equili ..."
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Cited by 342 (16 self)
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We investigate the “generalized secondprice ” (GSP) auction, a new mechanism used by search engines to sell online advertising. Although GSP looks similar to the VickreyClarkeGroves (VCG) mechanism, its properties are very different. Unlike the VCG mechanism, GSP generally does not have an equilibrium in dominant strategies, and truthtelling is not an equilibrium of GSP. To analyze the properties of GSP, we describe the generalized English auction that corresponds to GSP and show that it has a unique equilibrium. This is an ex post equilibrium, with the same payoffs to all players as the dominant strategy equilibrium of VCG. (JEL D44, L81, M37) This paper investigates a new auction mechanism, which we call the “generalized secondprice” auction, or GSP. GSP is tailored to the unique environment of the market for online ads, and neither the environment nor the mechanism has previously been studied in the mechanism design literature. While studying the properties of a novel mechanism is often fascinating in itself, our interest is also motivated by the spectacular commercial success of GSP. It is the dominant transaction mechanism in a large and rapidly growing industry. For example, Google’s total revenue in 2005 was $6.14 billion. Over 98 percent of its revenue came from GSP auctions. Yahoo!’s total revenue in 2005 was $5.26 billion. A large share of Yahoo!’s revenue is derived from sales via GSP auctions. It is believed that over half of Yahoo!’s revenue is derived from sales via GSP auctions. As of May 2006, the combined market capitalization of these companies exceeded $150 billion. Let us briefly describe how these auctions work. When an Internet user enters a search
Spectrum Auctions
, 2001
"... Auctions have emerged as the primary means of assigning spectrum licenses to companies wishing to provide wireless communication services. Since July 1994, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has conducted 33 spectrum auctions, assigning thousands of licenses to hundreds of firms. Countries ..."
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Cited by 314 (15 self)
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Auctions have emerged as the primary means of assigning spectrum licenses to companies wishing to provide wireless communication services. Since July 1994, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has conducted 33 spectrum auctions, assigning thousands of licenses to hundreds of firms. Countries throughout the world are conducting similar auctions. I review the current state of spectrum auctions. Both the design and performance of these auctions are addressed.
Taming the computational complexity of combinatorial auctions: Optimal and approximate approaches
, 1999
"... In combinatorial auctions, multiple goods are sold simultaneously and bidders may bid for arbitrary combinations of goods. Determining the outcome of such an auction is an optimization problem that is NPcomplete in the general case. We propose two methods of overcoming this apparent intractability. ..."
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Cited by 267 (9 self)
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In combinatorial auctions, multiple goods are sold simultaneously and bidders may bid for arbitrary combinations of goods. Determining the outcome of such an auction is an optimization problem that is NPcomplete in the general case. We propose two methods of overcoming this apparent intractability. The first method, which is guaranteed to be optimal, reduces running time by structuring the search space so that a modified depthfirst search usually avoids even considering allocations that contain conflicting bids. Caching and pruning are also used to speed searching. Our second method is a heuristic, marketbased approach. It sets up a virtual multiround auction in which a virtual agent represents each original bid bundle and places bids, according to a fixed strategy, for each good in that bundle. We show through experiments on synthetic data that (a) our first method finds optimal allocations quickly and offers good anytime performance, and (b) in many cases our second method, despite lacking guarantees regarding optimality or running time, quickly reaches solutions that are nearly optimal. 1 Combinatorial Auctions Auction theory has received increasing attention from computer scientists in recent years. 1 One reason is the explosion of internetbased auctions. The use of auctions in businesstobusiness trades is also increasing rapidly [Cortese and Stepanek, 1998]. Within AI there is growing interest in using auction mechanisms to solve distributed resource allocation problems. For example, auctions and other market mechanisms are used in network bandwidth allocation, distributed configuration design, factory scheduling, and operating system memory allocation [Clearwater, 1996]. Marketoriented programming has
Bidding and Allocation in Combinatorial Auctions
 In ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce
, 2000
"... When an auction of multiple items is performed, it is often desirable to allow bids on combinations of items, as opposed to only on single items. Such an auction is often called "combinatorial ", and the exponential number of possible combinations results in computational intractability of many a ..."
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Cited by 242 (11 self)
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When an auction of multiple items is performed, it is often desirable to allow bids on combinations of items, as opposed to only on single items. Such an auction is often called "combinatorial ", and the exponential number of possible combinations results in computational intractability of many aspects regarding such an auction. This paper considers two of these aspects: the bidding language and the allocation algorithm. First we consider which kinds of bids on combinations are allowed and how, i.e. in what language, they are specified. The basic tradeoff is the expressibility of the language versus its simplicity. We consider and formalize several bidding languages and compare their strengths. We prove exponential separations between the expressive power of different languages, and show that one language, "ORbids with phantom items", can polynomially simulate the others. We then consider the problem of determining the best allocation  a problem known to be computationally intractable. We suggest an approach based on Linear Programming (LP) and motivate it. We prove that the LP approach finds an optimal allocation if and only if prices can be attached to single items in the auction. We pinpoint several classes of auctions where this is the case, and suggest greedy and branchandbound heuristics based on LP for other cases. 1
An efficient ascendingbid auction for multiple objects
 AMERICAN ECONOMIC REVIEW
, 1997
"... In multipleobject environments where individual bidders may demand more than one object, standard methods of auction generally result in allocative inefficiency. This paper proposes a new ascendingbid method for auctioning homogeneous goods, such as Treasury bills or communications spectrum. The a ..."
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Cited by 196 (26 self)
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In multipleobject environments where individual bidders may demand more than one object, standard methods of auction generally result in allocative inefficiency. This paper proposes a new ascendingbid method for auctioning homogeneous goods, such as Treasury bills or communications spectrum. The auctioneer announces a current price, bidders report back the quantity demanded at that price, and the auctioneer raises the price. Objects are awarded to bidders at the current price whenever they are “clinched,” and the process continues until the market clears. With pure private values, the proposed (dynamic) auction yields the same outcome as the (sealedbid) Vickrey auction, but may be simpler for bidders to understand and has the advantage of assuring the privacy of the upper portions of bidders ’ demand curves. With interdependent values, the proposed auction may still yield efficiency, whereas the Vickrey auction fails due to a problem which could be described as the “Generalized Winner’s Curse.”
Computationally feasible VCG mechanisms
 In Proceedings of the Second ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce (EC’00
, 2000
"... A major achievement of mechanism design theory is a general method for the construction of truthful mechanisms called VCG. When applying this method to complex problems such as combinatorial auctions, a difficulty arises: VCG mechanisms are required to compute optimal outcomes and are therefore comp ..."
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Cited by 188 (5 self)
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A major achievement of mechanism design theory is a general method for the construction of truthful mechanisms called VCG. When applying this method to complex problems such as combinatorial auctions, a difficulty arises: VCG mechanisms are required to compute optimal outcomes and are therefore computationally infeasible. However, if the optimal outcome is replaced by the results of a suboptimal algorithm, the resulting mechanism (termed VCGbased) is no longer necessarily truthful. The first part of this paper studies this phenomenon in depth and shows that it is near universal. Specifically, we prove that essentially all reasonable approximations or heuristics for combinatorial auctions as well as a wide class of cost minimization problems yield nontruthful VCGbased mechanisms. We generalize these results for affine maximizers. The second part of this paper proposes a general method for circumventing the above problem. We introduce a modification of VCGbased mechanisms in which the agents are given a chance to improve the output of the underlying algorithm. When the agents behave truthfully, the welfare obtained by the mechanism is at least as good as the one obtained by the algorithm’s output. We provide a strong rationale for truthtelling behavior. Our method satisfies individual rationality as well.
Truth revelation in approximately efficient combinatorial auctions
 Journal of the ACM
, 2002
"... Abstract. Some important classical mechanisms considered in Microeconomics and Game Theory require the solution of a difficult optimization problem. This is true of mechanisms for combinatorial auctions, which have in recent years assumed practical importance, and in particular of the gold standard ..."
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Cited by 182 (1 self)
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Abstract. Some important classical mechanisms considered in Microeconomics and Game Theory require the solution of a difficult optimization problem. This is true of mechanisms for combinatorial auctions, which have in recent years assumed practical importance, and in particular of the gold standard for combinatorial auctions, the Generalized Vickrey Auction (GVA). Traditional analysis of these mechanisms—in particular, their truth revelation properties—assumes that the optimization problems are solved precisely. In reality, these optimization problems can usually be solved only in an approximate fashion. We investigate the impact on such mechanisms of replacing exact solutions by approximate ones. Specifically, we look at a particular greedy optimization method. We show that the GVA payment scheme does not provide for a truth revealing mechanism. We introduce another scheme that does guarantee truthfulness for a restricted class of players. We demonstrate the latter property by identifying natural properties for combinatorial auctions and showing that, for our restricted class of players, they imply that truthful strategies are dominant. Those properties have applicability beyond the specific auction studied.
The Economist as Engineer: Game Theory, Experimentation, and Computation as Tools for Design Economics
 ECONOMETRICA
, 2002
"... Economists have lately been called upon not only to analyze markets, but to design them. Market design involves a responsibility for detail, a need to deal with all of a market’s complications, not just its principle features. Designers therefore cannot work only with the simple conceptual models us ..."
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Cited by 158 (21 self)
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Economists have lately been called upon not only to analyze markets, but to design them. Market design involves a responsibility for detail, a need to deal with all of a market’s complications, not just its principle features. Designers therefore cannot work only with the simple conceptual models used for theoretical insights into the general working of markets. Instead, market design calls for an engineering approach. Drawing primarily on the design of the entry level labor market for American doctors (the National Resident Matching Program), and of the auctions of radio spectrum conducted by the Federal Communications Commission, this paper makes the case that experimental and computational economics are natural complements to game theory in the work of design. The paper also argues that some of the challenges facing both markets involve dealing with related kinds of complementarities, and that this suggests an agenda for future theoretical research.
Towards a universal test suite for combinatorial auction algorithms
 In ACM Electronic Commerce
, 2000
"... General combinatorial auctions—auctions in which bidders place unrestricted bids for bundles of goods—are the subject of increasing study. Much of this work has focused on algorithms for finding an optimal or approximately optimal set of winning bids. Comparatively little attention has been paid to ..."
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Cited by 139 (9 self)
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General combinatorial auctions—auctions in which bidders place unrestricted bids for bundles of goods—are the subject of increasing study. Much of this work has focused on algorithms for finding an optimal or approximately optimal set of winning bids. Comparatively little attention has been paid to methodical evaluation and comparison of these algorithms. In particular, there has not been a systematic discussion of appropriate data sets that can serve as universally accepted and well motivated benchmarks. In this paper we present a suite of distribution families for generating realistic, economically motivated combinatorial bids in five broad realworld domains. We hope that this work will yield many comments, criticisms and extensions, bringing the community closer to a universal combinatorial auction test suite.
Combinatorial Auctions with Decreasing Marginal Utilities
, 2001
"... This paper considers combinatorial auctions among such submodular buyers. The valuations of such buyers are placed within a hierarchy of valuations that exhibit no complementarities, a hierarchy that includes also OR and XOR combinations of singleton valuations, and valuations satisfying the gross s ..."
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Cited by 138 (21 self)
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This paper considers combinatorial auctions among such submodular buyers. The valuations of such buyers are placed within a hierarchy of valuations that exhibit no complementarities, a hierarchy that includes also OR and XOR combinations of singleton valuations, and valuations satisfying the gross substitutes property. Those last valuations are shown to form a zeromeasure subset of the submodular valuations that have positive measure. While we show that the allocation problem among submodular valuations is NPhard, we present an efficient greedy 2approximation algorithm for this case and generalize it to the case of limited complementarities. No such approximation algorithm exists in a setting allowing for arbitrary complementarities. Some results about strategic aspects of combinatorial auctions among players with decreasing marginal utilities are also presented.