Both JavaOne and Where 2.0 are in SF, so they’re close to home and a good excuse to avoid the trip down to San Jose. I went to JavaOne last year, but I’m really not a Java guy, so I’m not sure if I’ll go back. Greg and Sean are speaking, so I will let them do the recon for me.
I will be going to Where 2.0. Despite the version number, this is O’Reilly’s first conference on “Where,” or on location aware and mapping services on the Internet. I’ve looked over the program, and I can’t tell if I’ll be fascinated or bored. I think the first.
eBay, Inc. (as distinct from eBay.com, or the eBay marketplace) has increasingly moved into the local arenain the past year. We purchased 25% of craigslist; started Kijiji (craigslist for non-English speaking people); and most recently bought Rent.Com.
All of these sites are leaders in e-commerce at the local level. They’re quite distinct from the value proposition of the eBay marketplace, which is about creating a “perfect” global marketplace by removing local inefficiencies. Instead, they realize that when you’re looking for certain things — couches, apartments, jobs, potential boy and girlfriends — that it’s important to aggregate the largest amount of quality listings on a micro-local basis. While I don’t mind driving 30 minutes to buy an air conditioner, it’s even easier if I can walk down the block, and I’m even willing to sacrifice $5 on the price for the service.
In my case, when I moved from Manhattan to San Francisco, I sold both my air conditioners to people in my apartment building. I simply posted a paper flyer in the entryway, two people called, and I was done in 40 minutes. If that didn’t work, my next step would have been craigslist, not eBay. Who wants to pay to ship an air conditioner? (Additionally, who wants to package up an air conditioner? Not me.)
Now, the eBay marketplace does have a local component, too. You can restrict your searches to items within a certain radius of a specific ZIP code. This is most useful for larger items, such as what’s available on eBay Motors.
John Donahoe, the new president of the eBay marketplace, told us a story yesterday about how he sold his car on eBay Motors to someone in Sunnyvale (which is 10 minutes away from his house). The guy came over 15 minutes after contacting John, decided he liked it, and paid with a cashiers check the next day. What could be easier?
Despite this, I’m sure there are tons of other things eBay can be doing to get more local. The craigslist / Google Maps mash up is a perfect example. Why doesn’t eBay have a shared mapping server for all of our sites to use? (For that matter, why doesn’t craigslist have a Web services API?)
Another aspect of local is cell phones. I want to be able to SMS craigslist or Rent.com and ask for the locations of apartments for rent within 4 blocks of my current location. We have the data, we just need to open up the interfaces.
Hopefully, I’ll get some additional great ideas from Where 2.0 that I can bring back to eBay and figure out how we and our developers can deploy them.