The volume of PayPal Inc. payments made through other companies has eclipsed the volume of transactions initiated through the online auctions of its parent company, eBay Inc.

The milestone comes as PayPal's acceptance at large online merchants has increased.

The value of payments made through PayPal rose 28%, to $14.8 billion, in the third quarter from a year earlier, eBay said Wednesday. Of those payments, 51% were made to merchants other than eBay, up from 44% a year earlier and 49% in the prior quarter.

PayPal's net revenue rose 37% from a year earlier, to $597 million; eBay's marketplaces net revenue, which includes its flagship auction site as well as its classified ad sites, grew 4% to $1.38 billion from a year earlier.

John Donahoe, eBay's president and chief executive, said on an earnings conference call Wednesday that "these are turbulent times for which nobody has the perfect playbook."

However, he stressed that eBay, which announced last week that it would cut its work force by 10%, was also expanding its payments unit.

"We are strengthening our position in online payments" through acquisition, he said. It is also bulking up other business lines, including its online classified advertisements unit. Last week eBay announced a deal to buy Bill Me Later Inc., an online payment company.

Jennifer Roth, a research director with the global payments practice at TowerGroup Inc., an independent research firm owned by MasterCard Inc., said PayPal's usage is clearly increasing.

"They've really made some great strides with the merchants," she said.