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 .