Third party web apps coming to eBay
The online auction and marketplace operator is to allow Facebook-style outside web apps run within its site.
EBay has announced plans to allow third parties to develop and deploy web-based software that will work inside the e-commerce site, following in the footsteps of social networking giant Facebook.
The company announced its plan at its annual conference for software developers, taking place this week in Chicago. Called Project Echo, eBay plans to give independent developers a way to implement their software within eBay's core site.
The move, which the company plans to begin testing later this year, will allow third-party software programs to work within eBay's Selling Manager, which functions as a central sales management dashboard for 700,000 eBay sellers.
"We are opening up the eBay site to help developers and sellers make more money, which is what this is all about," Max Mancini, eBay's senior director of platform and disruptive innovation, said in an interview.
Across the web, companies are opening up their software platforms to act as distribution hubs for outsider developers.
Facebook has attracted a vast new audience since it did this a year ago. Outside developers have built 24,000 new applications for the social network.
"Rather than having eBay try to build every feature, we should open up the platform and integrate others' work," Mancini said. "We have realised that we need to allow sellers and developers to get together a little bit more easily."
In blurring the boundary between what eBay builds itself and what it incorporates from other developers, the company is seeking to benefit from rapid external innovation while rewarding these partners with new ways to make money.
EBay would promote software built by outsiders for purchase by its army of auction sellers, and take a cut of resulting sales. The company would vet programs to ensure they meet site guidelines for trustworthiness, Mancini said.
By incorporating outside programs more directly into eBay.com, developers would gain access to mountains of data that is closely controlled by eBay - such as available inventory, latest bids and completed sales - allowing their software to capitalise on these insights into user behaviour.
EBay consumers eventually stand to benefit by getting access to a richer range of tools for buying on its auction and online store sites, although the initial focus of Project Echo is on auction sellers, Mancini said.
For sellers, Project Echo could help them manage various aspects of their business within eBay, as well as operations outside the e-commerce site, such as accounting and customer service.
"Our philosophy is to help sellers manage their businesses, not just businesses on eBay," Mancini said. Policies for how open eBay might be to allowing rival e-commerce sites to operate inside it have yet to be settled.
Project Echo builds on a variety of careful steps eBay has taken to encourage independent software programmers to build software that runs on eBay. The company has 70,000 members in its developer program.
Already, a little more than one-quarter of all eBay auction listings are the result of some 12,000 software programs built by outside developers. This activity is now typically initiated on other sites, then routed into eBay behind the scenes.
Selected sellers will gain trial access to Project Echo early in the fourth quarter. To prevent potential disruptions during the heavy year-end holiday selling season, wider availability will be delayed until early 2009, Mancini said.
BCDR buyer's guide for MSPs
How to choose a business continuity and disaster recovery solutionDownload now
The definitive guide to IT security
Protecting your MSP and your customersDownload now
Cost of a data breach report 2020
Find out what factors help mitigate breach costsDownload now
The complete guide to changing your phone system provider
Optimise your phone system for better business resultsDownload now