Internet is spawning many new markets. In this sense, we observe that the proliferation of on-line auctions in the Internet--such as Auctionline (http://www.auctionline.com), Onsale (http://www.onsale.com), InterAUCTION (http://www.interauction.com), eBay (http://www.eBay.com), and many others -- has established auctioning as a main-stream form of electronic commerce. Thus, agent-mediated auctions appear as a convenient mechanism for automated trading, due not only to the simplicity of their conventions for interaction when multi-party negotiations are involved, but also to the fact that on-line auctions may successfully reduce storage, delivery or clearing house costs in many markets. This popularity has spawned research and development in agent-mediated auction houses as well as in trading agents endowed with intelligent auction strategies.
The matter of trading within an auction house appears to be numbingly complex, because of the numerous variables coming into play. The actual conditions for deliberation are not only constantly changing and highly uncertain--new goods become available, buyers come and leave, prices keep on changing; no one really knows for sure what utility functions other agents have, nor what profits might be accrued -- but on top of all that, deliberations are significantly time-bounded. Hence there is the intricate matter of providing agent developers with some support to help them face the arduous task of designing, building, and tuning their trading agents before letting them loose in wildly competitive markets.
The FishMarket project conducted at the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (IIIA-CSIC) attempts to contribute in that direction by developing FM, an agent-mediated electronic auction house which has been evolved into a test-bed for electronic auction markets. The framework, conceived and implemented as an extension of FM96.5 (a Java-based version of the Fishmarket auction house), allows to define trading scenarios based on fish market auctions (Dutch auctions). FM provides the framework wherein agent designers can perform controlled experimentation in such a way that a multitude of experimental market scenarios--that we regard as tournament scenarios due to the competitive nature of the domain-- of varying degrees of realism and complexity can be specified, activated, and recorded; and trading (buyer and seller) heterogeneous (human and software) agents compared, tuned and evaluated. We argue that such competitive situations constitute convenient problem domains in which to study issues related with agent architectures in general and auction strategies in particular.
We highly recommend the interested reader to consult  for a more detailed, though concise, description of FM, and [3, 1] for more thorough discussions.
The current version of FM, FM0.9beta, is now available and can be downloaded from the FishMarket project web page. Next, we summarize the most salient features of this very first release.