Users face chaos as companies that announced e-marketplaces in a bid to be seen to be ready for e-business reconsider the extent of their involvement.
After three months of racing to create new markets in a string of business sectors including energy, retail and airlines, some users are still unsure what they will gain. That leaves e-commerce and IT directors having to design systems for a "phantom strategy".
At the Planet2000 conference, organised by software company i2, both IBM and i2 executives warned that, although marketplaces were here to stay, many companies had signed up to the concept without understanding what they would ultimately get out of it.
Some have signed up just to boost their share price - and the company's value - by appearing to have a strategy for e-business. Others see an "equity play" in which they can gain from investments in new marketplaces.
Meanwhile, business managers are still trying to understand what they are going to get from collaborations with competitors that they have already signed up to.
Even at the high-profile automotive exchange driven by General Motors, Ford, and Daimler Chrysler - which became a merged operation following separate initiatives by both Ford and GM - details of how the exchange will operate are sketchy. It does not yet have a name.
In the retail sector, initiatives pioneered by Sears and Carrefour face being overshadowed by the plans of giant US retailer Wal-Mart.
Some users, however, do have an idea what their marketplace strategy should involve.
One US chief information officer recently told IBM, "We are not in this for e-procurement or an equity play, but for delivering value for our customers."