Posted June 16, 2008 4:19 pm by with 14 comments

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As popular as the place for online auctions once was, eBay has slowly but steadily fallen from favor, especially among tech bloggers and reporters in 2008. But today they’ve announced plans for something which they hope will reverse their failing fortunes: a developer platform.

eBay already has internally-developed apps in use by its 700,000 merchants. The new platform would increase the functionality of the API—and make it more portable. ComputerWorld reports:

For the first time, eBay will feature third-party applications within Selling Manager, a tool that merchants use to manage their eBay listings, the company plans to announce Monday at its annual eBay Developers Conference in Chicago. . . .

Selling Manager is the most popular tool among eBay merchants, but so far, it has featured only applications created by the company. However, eBay now recognizes that it can’t extend the tool’s functionality on its own in a way that meets all of its users’ demands and requirements, [eBay senior director of mobile platform and disruptive innovation Max] Mancini said.

Naturally, the first question those of us familiar with social networks’ platforms is: why? What will a platform and third-party apps add to eBay?

Mancini gave ComputerWorld his answer: “The point is to help sellers scale their business.” (Kind of a “duh.”)

Aside from attracting and keeping sellers’ interest in the apps, eBay will also have to keep developers happy:

EBay hasn’t yet decided whether developers will have to pay for their applications promoted via the new contextually relevant suggestion system as they would in an advertising program. It’s still early in the rollout of the system, and eBay will settle on specifics later based on feedback from developers, Mancini said.

EBay is trying to help external developers market their applications more effectively by giving them more direct and targeted access to the type of professional seller that typically uses Selling Manager, Mancini said.

The platform is scheduled to begin testing later this year. My sources in the data consulting field say that eBay plans major overhauling on their piecemeal backend, which they probably need to do before giving developers carte blanche (or carte demiblanche as the case may be).

PayPal is also expected to announce its own Developer Central portal next week, with the portal due out next month.

While keeping sellers loyal to eBay is vital to maintaining or growing their market share, will it be enough to keep eBay viable and competitive? After all, it’s not Amazon or Google, so maybe it’s just time to throw in the towel now 😉 .

(via, see also Reuters’ coverage)

  • Joe

    eBay … isn’t this way, way overdue? Their core business (auctions) is dying a slow death IMHO. Purchasers are going to one click. Merchant fees go ever higher. There is less and less incentives for merchants within the eBay universe. I just don’t see that upgraded merchant tools help the situation much.

    Joe’s last blog post..What Happens When An LLC Member Dies?

  • Dan balaj

    I just want to say that I was defrauded (and atleast six other buyers from the seller) on a purchase on eBay. Paypal and ebay did nothing to either punish the seller or to refund my money. If you absolutely must use ebay use your credit card to make payment because credit card companies will at least protect you against fraud.


  • API? Here’s how to make sellers’ happy:
    Allow sellers to leave negative feedback again.

    Sellers can no longer leave negative feedback for buyers. With the current system, you report the buyer to eBay if they blackmail you. eBay historically has never been good when it comes to solving disputes. I don’t know why they would even try this and I wouldn’t trust them to execute it well.

    I used to be a titanium PowerSeller but I wouldn’t bother with eBay anymore. They are way out of touch with their sellers.

    Michelle Greer’s last blog post..Why Plurk Will Fail

  • The sad truth is that Ebay has ignored those most loyal to if for years now and forced them to look towards other auction sites in order to make a profit on anything. This combined with the increasing difficulty with which to find anything has ultimately lead to a once wonderful site becoming a “used-to-be”

    Bill’s last blog post..Real Estate Woes Leaving Many Wondering What’s Next

  • At least they are trying. Whether it is going to be enough to revive their flagging fortunes remains to be seen though. Perhaps a classic example of too little too late? On the other hand, opening your platform to developers might just bring the required
    input from the base that uses your offering. Good luck to eBay, hope they don’t fade into obscurity as well.

  • The problem of ebay are not some additional tools but their inability to care about their core-product. Ebay has changed from an interesting market-place to a huge pile of cheap crap sold by professional sellers with buy-now options. The old auction-model is dying out.
    And they do too little to build trust between seller and buyer.

  • Ebay have a many ways to return popularity, but API is not important way.

  • This is great way to intergrate with strong CMS systems.

    Symbian’s last blog post..Nokia S60 Symbian Windows Live client available in Europe

  • Having been an ebay developer for the past 3 years, I can heartily suggest that eBay simplify their API process rather then try to add more functionality to it. I’ve used a number of third party APIs over the years, and eBay has to be the biggest PITA to get into. Functionality wise, it already does far more then I will ever need. I just dread having to change my code because some genius over there decides they need to make some “improvements”.

    Top Rated’s last blog post..Absolutely The Best Point And Shoot Digital Camera

  • I am not sure what the purpose of this developer platform with be, and its only on the cards now. Lets see what happens when they launch it.

  • I guess reinvention is the name of the game to survive in today’s highly competitive world. Ebay was really popular as a selling and buying site. In fact it made a difference in the way people shopped online. Lets hope that they are successful in this new venture as well.

    Eva White’s last blog post..Canada’s Apology To The Indian People

  • PS3

    Normally evolution implies changes for the positive but my own experience of eBay over the last twelve months does not support that.

    I had a real problem with malicious negative feedback, my one and only, and also vehemently disagree with removing sellers’ rights to leave negative feedback. An ideal World, where buyers were honest and could read listings….sadly not!

    If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

  • toto

    Won’t help. The web is full of negative comments about feeBay. Most people don’t trust them. High fees, no customer support, high fraud with their help, unfair treatment of their users, the disastrous EPN, making affiliates change millions of links everytime they feel to pick up their toys and go home….

    As long as eBay is linked to shareholders, it will never go ahead no matter what they do. They need to raise prices in order to survive. They are at a point that any fee rise would make it inviable for sellers to sell there. It’s like selling gas at $10/gallon to consumers; not worth it. Developers will suffer too for the lack of customers.

    It’s time for a new auction site!

  • I remember the days when one could find a good deal in Ebay not the market is completely flooded and there is way too much competition there now for me to compete anymore. Ebay like many other companies must do things to keep the business alive I hope this helps them out.