Inside eBay's Innovation Machine

CIO Insight has an interesting article discussing eBay’s move to a new open architecture allowing 3rd-party integration via web APIs.

Infopia is not just another software vendor. It’s part of a growing community of some 40,000 independent developers, all building products using eBay’s own application programming
interfaces, or APIs—the connection points that let a program share data and respond to requests from other software. These applications are tailor-made to work seamlessly with eBay’s core computing platform. eBay provides its APIs to the developers for free; its cost is limited to maintaining the code and providing some support resources for the developers.

The payoff: a network of companies creating applications that help make eBay work better, grow faster and reach a broader customer base. (eBay’s other business units, Skype and PayPal, also have open APIs and developer programs.) eBay says that software created by its developer network—there are more than 3,000 actively used applications, including a configurator that allows high-volume sellers to list items more efficiently, and a program that notifies buyers of auction status via mobile phone—plays a role in 25 percent of listings on the U.S. eBay site. The company has about 105 million listed items at any given time; roughly half of its sales come from within the United States.

Sharing APIs is common practice for software companies, but eBay, along with its fellow online-retail pioneer, Amazon.com, is breaking new ground in its industry by establishing a large community of outside developers. And the implications of this strategy go much further than the world of auctions and electronic storefronts.

“It’s about allowing people outside your company to write services that communicate with you-—it could be companies in your supply chain, sharing information about inventories or billing,” says Adam Trachtenberg, senior manager of platform evangelism at eBay (i.e., the guy responsible for the care and feeding of the developer program).

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About Kevin

Kevin Jarnot is a technologist who lives just South of Boston, MA. He is currently employed as Chief Technology Officer at DebtX, a financial services technology company based in Boston.
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