At the eBay Developers Conference this week, the auction company will announce a new marketplace for sellers' add-ons to its online auctions. Essentially the program gives developers access to all the data that eBay's existing online app for medium- and large-scale retailers, Selling Manager, already has.
Like other online apps that have become platforms, such as Salesforce.com and Facebook, eBay's new initiative, called Project Echo, will give developers not just access to rich data they can package up for customers, but also a marketing channel for their applications.
Project Echo will allow app developers to pitch their apps to just the potential customers they are looking for. For example, if an app is designed only for high-volume electronics sellers, Project Echo will make sure that those sellers get queued up to see pitches for the app; other sellers won't be bothered with it.
In order to get into the Project Echo program, developers have to meet certain standards for trustworthiness. Also, all apps must have 30-day free trials. In return, developers will get access to "special APIs that are only available to people who integrate in Project Echo," according to Max Mancini, senior director of Mobile Platform and Disruptive Innovation (yes, that is his real title).
The program will go into testing in the fourth quarter of this year, but in the interest of not disrupting the holiday buying season, it won't go into open beta until the first quarter of 2009.
My take: Seems like a good extension for the eBay economy. And eBay needs to keep ahead of the curve in this department--28 percent of all listings are through third-party tools, according to Mancini. That adds up to 6 billion API calls a month. Also, I like that eBay is enforcing the 30-day-free rule.
Speaking of disruptive technologies, I asked Mancini what eBay was doing about the growing fraud that is creeping into eBay for non-power-sellers. He didn't have a concrete answer, although he said there will be announcements at the eBay conference that starts Monday. All I got out of him for now was, "Creating a trusted marketplace is critical to us."