So long, Diablo 3 auction house, you won't be missed. You were a controversial idea Blizzard finally had sense enough last September to acknowledge in a public mea culpa, before establishing March 18 as your terminal date.
That would be today, and as promised, the auction house is no more -- a moment now frozen in time, the precise time being 6:00 a.m. ET.
The shutdown didn't require a maintenance update, also as promised, and simply locked the service in place, preventing new auctions from being submitted while wrapping up existing ones. As Blizzard notes in its Auction House FAQ:
All active auctions will expire as normal following the shutdown of the gold and real-money auction houses on Tuesday, March 18. Once the shutdown is complete, items will either be delivered to the current highest bidder or returned to the seller, appearing in each player’s Completed tab. Unclaimed gold will also appear in the Completed tab. Players will be able to claim gold and items and from this tab until June 24, 2014.
Blizzard's decision to scrap the Auction House comes in advance of Diablo 3's first expansion, Reaper of Souls, due next Tuesday, March 25 (the core game launched in May 2012). In its explanation for the Auction House's takedown last September, Blizzard said "it became increasingly clear that despite the benefits of the AH system and the fact that many players around the world use it, it ultimately undermines Diablo’s core game play: kill monsters to get cool loot." Former Diablo 3 director Jay Wilson said earlier last year that the Auction House "really hurt the game."
There's more in the shutdown FAQ if you're wondering about hypotheticals like "What will happen to my existing Battle.net Balance?" (Blizzard: " Your Battle.net Balance total will not be affected...") Or "What happens to my unclaimed items and gold...?" (Blizzard: "Items and gold not claimed by [June 24, 2014] will be consumed by Treasure Goblins, never to be seen again.")