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eBay exec: It's all about the platform

Facebook's developer network has popularized Web apps for the Internet's largest auction house, says eBay's senior director of platform and disruptive innovation.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--When up-and-comer Facebook opened up its developer platform last May, it had a trickle-down effect for the Web's largest auction house.

"Thanks to Facebook, everybody wants to develop applications for platforms," Max Mancini, eBay's senior director of platform and disruptive innovation, said here Tuesday at the Dow Jones Web Ventures conference.

Mancini said although eBay has offered developers a platform for creating specialized eBay applications for the last six-plus years, Facebook popularized the concept in the Web community. In fact, five or six other developers beat eBay to the punch by building a Facebook app for the auction house, Mancini said. But the company has long benefited from third-party developers.

eBay, for example, gets about 6.7 million new listings a day on its auction site. Of those, he said, about 60 percent originate from Web services, and a third come from applications built by third parties. Mancini added that eBay generates hundreds of millions of dollars of gross revenue annually from applications such as Wired Buyer, which alerts eBay shoppers via phone call to changes in an auction.

"Guess what? We don't have to pay a dime to do that," Mancini said in an interview on stage.

Unlike Facebook, he said, Web developers can make money immediately when they create an application on eBay's platform. They don't have to worry about selling advertising, he said--developers make money from affiliate fees generated from auction sales. "We pay 50 to 75 percent on that revenue," he said.

The comments come as eBay is undergoing a seismic shift. Longtime CEO Meg Whitman is leaving the company at the end of the month after 10 years, and John Donahoe, head of eBay Marketplaces, will take her place. Mancini said that Donahoe is a big proponent of a distributing eBay across the Web through services and applications.

"He understands the power of the platform," Mancini said.

"It's not about eBay.com as a destination. It's about distributing eBay anywhere on the Web."