Bloggers debate impact of Skype acquisition

With rumors now confirmed, bloggers debate the merits of eBay's acquisition and how it could change e-commerce down the road.

Jennifer Guevin
Jennifer Guevin Managing Editor / Reviews
Jennifer Guevin is managing editor at CNET, overseeing the ever-helpful How To section, special packages, and front-page programming. As a writer, she gravitates toward science, quirky geek culture stories, robots, and food. In real life, she mostly just gravitates toward food.
4 min read
The blogging community got an early jump on the news that eBay is acquiring VoIP provider Skype, and bloggers were quick to speculate on what was behind the move and how the e-commerce giant plans to use Skype's communications technology.

On news of the acquisition Monday, "Skype" and "eBay Skype" shot to Technorati's list of the 10 most searched-for subjects. But while everyone seemed to have something to say about the buy, opinions about why eBay chose Skype and whether it was a good move ranged far and wide.

In his blog on tech and telecommunications, Mark Evans wrote, "Part of it has to be defensive. It has become increasingly obvious the Web will be dominated by a handful of large companies. The key consideration is traffic....Today, the strong growth of the advertising and e-commerce markets means traffic is big business. Skype brings more than 52 million registered users to eBay and 2 million paying customers. With this database, eBay can cross-sell its other services and, at the same time, generate new revenue from voice services as Skype moves into the mainstream."

Only a few days before the announcement, Oliver Starr doubted the soundness of the then-rumored buy. "eBay is an auction company; a transactional specialist to be sure, but a telco? This is a very different and highly competitive business; and not the one the company essentially invented. Beyond this, while Skype clearly has unparalleled potential, much of that potential remains undeveloped with a huge amount of uncertainty as to whether the users that are so happy with the free services that Skype provides are willing to pony up hard earned cash to let a company like eBay monetize them," he wrote.

But as news developed on Monday and bloggers found that the acquisition was a done deal, talk moved from "why?" to "what now?"

Some view the acquisition as a groundbreaking deal that will have far-reaching implications for the telecommunications industry. In his blog, Jeff Pulver wrote, "I suspect that historians might come to recognize today's announced acquisition of Skype by eBay, as one of the great indicators of the historic transformation in communications...The acquisition turns the entire telecom industry picture on its head, and demonstrates that voice, presence, text messaging and other IP-based applications will be essential for the company of the future."

Ian Fogg of Jupiter Research agreed that telecommunications giants will take note of the acquisition, but he said they'll have an entirely different reaction. In Jupiter's Analyst Weblogs, he wrote "Telecom firms may breathe a sigh of relief that this deal is final confirmation that Skype is not a telephony business and therefore not a threat. The thinking would go as follows: the eBay acquisition will deflect Skype from a straight voice communication and telephony play. Skype's road map focus will change to value added features that support eBay's model rather than a feature set evolution that impinges on traditional telephony."

The deal also has the blogging community's mental wheels turning as to what the joined company will mean for the consumer. Bringing Skype's communications technology to eBay creates the potential for new services and could fundamentally change the way people use the auction site.

The Social Customer Manifesto said, "It's an opportunity to extend eBay communities to the desktop. The buddy list, collaboration, instant messaging, and communication features of Skype allow customers to create communities of interest, especially around the various areas highlighted in eBay Groups. Integration of eBay Groups with Skype makes these communities much easier to join, and greatly increases the possibility of interactions between the group members (all of which eBay can monetize)."

The Skype Journal, a blog devoted entirely to the company, predicts that the acquisition could invert the eBay model, with Skype technology allowing eBay to match up auctioneers with interested buyers. "Skype down the road will enable eBay to aggregate consumer demand and auction it in the same way they currently auction consumer goods. What's nice about this is eBay doesn't have any interest in owning individual information. They understand it is the power of all of us. Facilitating marketplaces is what they do. A marketplace is nothing without conversations. Not all of those conversations require voice. Expect a large 'agents' market to emerge as bots, Skype and eBay integrate. That will increase the efficiency of finding buyers and matching them with sellers," the journal explained.

Over at TMCnet, Greg Galatzine was skeptical about the merits of the deal, but he related the argument a former colleague made to him: "He reminded me that '...eBay also owns 25 percent of craigslist; imagine the social-networking prospects if every posting on craigslist had a VoIP call button!' He continued: 'So you've got eBay, craigslist, and Skype all together. What do online auctions, a bulletin board, and VoIP have in common? They all connect people. I hate myself for saying this, but there's a 'synergy' there.'"

But not everyone sees the benefits of eBay's acquisition. In a podcast with Erik Lagerway, ex-TechTVer and Lockergnome creator Chris Pirillo argued that any new communications technology that eBay--or any other major online giant--may spearhead is only going to make a significant change to the industry if it is open and standardized. One more proprietary communications tool to add to the increasing pile is nothing to celebrate, according to Pirillo.

Whatever the fallout of this acquisition, the blogging community will be watching, analyzing and writing, with an eye to what the move will mean for consumers and telecommunications giants and how it will affect the way communication happens online.