All Posts Tagged With: "web 2.0"

eBay Developers Conference 2006

With less than a month to go, this year’s eBay Developers Conference is really beginning to gel. I’ve been working with a number of people all across eBay to put together a great show. So far, we’ve got:

  • Tracks on eBay, PayPal, Skype,, and ProStores Web services and APIs
  • Sessions on, for lack of a better phrase, “Web 2.0” content, including AJAX, widgets, XUL, mashups, and Chris Anderson presenting on “the long tail.”
  • Keynote talks by Pierre Omidyar & Scott Cook, the head of eBay corporate strategy, and the head of eBay corporate architecture.
  • Business talks and panels by Digg founder Kevin Rose, SocialText founder Ross Mayfield, SixApart’s Anil Dash, SoftTech Venture Consulting’s Jeff Clavier, and others.
  • A half day unconference, where you can get together to share your knowledge on the topics that matter to you. (Check out our Conference Wiki to start participating before the show begins.)
  • An opening kick off party at the House of Blues, a beer bash the next night, and general Vegas fun and glamour. (Did I mention the show is in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino?)

OSCON 2006 Proposal Accepted

This year’s OSCON isn’t until July, but I’m ready to book my tickets because my proposal on “Dirty secrets of PHP 5’s ext/soap extension” was accepted today.

I’ve spent many months using ext/soap with eBay’s WSDL writing sample code and testing out various functions. Bit-by-bit I’ve picked up a number of tricks and discovered quite a few un- (or mis- or poorly) documented features. Thanks to this talk, I will finally have the excuse to put them all together in one place.

Here’s the official description:

PHP 5’s ext/soap extension is an excellent Web services client. However, while the easy things are easy, lack of documentation means the hard things can appear downright impossible. Starting with SOAPClient basics and building upwards, learn the hidden secrets necessary to conquer even the strangest WSDL.

The one bad part about this talk is that I won’t be giving “Abracadabra and hocus pocus: Magical methods and PHP 5” or “Consuming Web Services Using PHP 5.” Of the two, the first would have been a blast to give, but I already have slides for the second, which is nice. (Well, I haven’t heard one way or another about those talks, but I’m assuming they were rejected. That’s fine, since I only have time to prepare one talk.)

See you in Portland!

More from MIX 06

Ever since I started at eBay, I’ve been excited about using our Web services to improve the eBay experience for buyers. In particular, I think there are lots of interesting ways to integrate eBay into programs other than Web browsers. So, when we looked to put together demos for MIX 06, we decide to show off a search widget and Outlook 12 integration (see yesterday’s post for more information).

After poking around Feedster and Technorati, I’m glad to see other people are equally excited by these ideas:

The best demo was one that showed how you can integrate eBay with Microsoft Outlook, giving you a single place to manage your auctions. One can envision many similar uses that aggregate task-based communications into your email software.

Trapper Markelz

[Joe Belfiore] demo’d a cool add in that eBay created for monitoring auctions. Although not an avid eBayer this is something I’ve wanted for a while.

eBay had a talk about building their search gadget – source speaks louder than words – it’s available on

Jon Gallant

Later today I’m hosting a round table, so if you’re still at MIX, come on by the eBay table and I’ll buy you lunch.

Other links:

MIX 06

Today’s Day 2 at Microsoft’s MIX 06 conference. I’ve had a great time so far. Here’s my recap:

Yesterday, was the big Bill G keynote and 1-1 chat with Tim O’Reilly. During Bill’s opening remarks, he gave the eBay Web service a nice plug by saying “eBay is an extreme example where half the product listings are done in a programmable way.” Technically, it’s 47% of listings, but what’s 3% among friends?

Later on, Dean Hachamovitch, king of IE 7, showed off eBay’s new support for viewing search results via RSS directly within the browser. Even better, we’ve integrated support for Microsoft’s Simple List Extensions to RSS, so you can sort and filter eBay items by category, format, price, etc. I think it’s a great way of using RSS outside of news syndication.

After lunch, I was on a panel titled “Web 2.0: Show Me The Money,” with Tim O’Reilly, Jeremy Zawodny, Michael Arrington, and Royal Farros. At first, I was worried we couldn’t fill up the entire hour and fifteen minutes, but we actually ran three minutes late and could have kept going. I don’t know if that was a good or bad thing, but a number of people have come up to me after the panel to say they enjoyed it, so I’m going to assume we were at least entertaining, if not actually informative.

Here’s the round-up from the blogsphere:

I hustled from my panel to Christin Boyd’s Office 2007 talk, where she demoed (in grand style) an eBay and Outlook integration, where you can pull in the items your watching and bidding on from eBay directly into Outlook. They appear directly inside a folder that you can sort, label, etc. Even better, they appear on your calendar, so you get a reminder 15 minutes before the auction closes. She even overwrote the “Reply” button on the ribbon turning it into a “Bid on eBay” button. Quite cool!

This morning, Joe Belfiore demoed this in front of the entire MIX 06 crowd during his morning keynote as an example of Office integration with third party sites using Web services.

Right now, I’m taking a short break before lunch, and then I’m off to hear Alan Lewis demo his eBay Live.Com Gadget. He’s learned all sorts of practical information about combining widgets and gadgets with Web services, and he’s going to share best practices with the attendees.

I got a chance to play around with the gadget over the past week, and it’s quite nice. Kudos to Alan, Rob, and Tim, for the design, programming, and UI. They really took this from idea to concept to actual code all by themselves. In particular, they added this nifty feature where the gadget will intelligently expand and truncate the search results depending on the width of your screen. Very impressive.

If you’ve made it this far, I’ll share my one Vegas celebrity almost sighting. Yes, a real “appears in the National Enquirer” celebrity, not a tech “has an a-list blog” celebrity. While we were at dinner last night, Britney Spears rolled into the restaurant. Unfortunately, no thanks can be shared with “It’s 30 seconds too late, but now’s when I’m going to mention this” Arturo, who didn’t alert the people at the table with our backs to the entrance. I admit to shamlessly trying to “go to the bathroom,” but she was hidden away in a private room, and the bathrooms are in the casino, so that line didn’t work so well.

eBay Plugin for Google Desktop

My man Alan Lewis evangelised Google to use eBay Web services to write a plug-in for their Google Desktop application.

It’s quite nice and takes advantage of a not-well-announced new rate limiting feature that you should expect to learn more about later this month. :) No particular reason for the suspense, except that I’ve been too busy to give it the proper attention it needs.

If you’re the type of person that runs Google Desktop and uses eBay, you should pick it up.

My eBay Motors Maps Mashup

In my copious free time, I have been writing a little mashup using eBay Motors and Google Maps. This is equal parts eBay Web services marking, a learning exercize, and an excuse to code.

Like all Web 2.0 concepts, it’s in perpetual beta. (Why does “perpetual beta” seem like the Web 2.0 phrase for Web 1.0’s “Under Construction” image?) Thanks to a helpful prod, I sat down this morning and fixed the outstanding IE bugs, so now it works in IE, Firefox, and Safari. That means I can officially blog about it.

For those of you interested in the technical details, the backend code is written in PHP 5. I’m using the ext/soap extension to talk with eBay Web services and PEAR’s HTML_QuickForm, HTML_Javascript, and Date packages. I tried to use HTML_AJAX, but it was buggy when I first tried it; I see there have been many recent updates, so I should look again.

Not surprisingly, writing the PHP part was pretty easy. It was the JavaScript code that took forever and a day to write and debug. Many thanks to the QuirksMode Web site for documenting cross-browser woes.

Please check out the site and let me know what you think.

A Modest Proposal on How To Commoditize Away Google’s Advertising Revenues.

New eBay blogger Josh Scott muses about Bill Gates’s comments that Google isn’t really free because they serve up ads. To quote Josh paraphrasing Bill:

[S]earch engines like Google get their revenues from advertising because people use these search engines, but they don’t share these advertising revenues with the end users who help them get the revenue.

Later on, Josh hits on my number one long-time issue with making money from search:

[Google should] be concerned about the lack of network effects, but also by the related fact that the switching costs both as a searcher and as an advertiser are so low.

I use Google now because it’s the best. But I used to use AltaVista. And before AV, I used Lycos. If (when?) someone else comes along, I’m going to switch.

Google has no inherent structural advantage over other companies in regards to search. They are no lock-in costs or network effects. They’re just better at it. But companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo! and eBay can also hire engineers who can write search engines. They can even hire away Google engineers.

If eBay sellers will go through the hassle of selling their items through multiple channels, you better believe advertisers will go where they get the best bang for their buck, too. As long as Google continues to aggregate demand and provide the “best” clicks, they’ll continue to capture massive value.

However, when other companies catch up, either by providing a better service or by paying me to use their search engine, Google will need to cut into their AdSense margins to remain competitive. This hurts Google and all search engines on the supply side.

In related news, Tim Bray talks today about “The Future Search Market” He describes an application that has a Web search window and:

When someone types in “Britney Spears” or “Mayan Eschatology”, I send the query off three different search engines who pay me a small retainer for the privilege of getting them…. You could imagine an alternative setup in which you send the search terms to the engines and all they come back with is their per-click bid price, and then you only send the actual search to the winner.

It’s certainly true that companies such as Google and Yahoo! pay to be the search provider for popular applications, such as Firefox and Safari. They also pay to be the search provider for popular Web applications, such as AOL and the Washington Post. However, this doesn’t need to apply to big companies.

Another way Google currently pays for traffic is through their AdWords program. Tim’s idea applies just as well (if not better) to any page on the Web that runs contextual ads — which are essentially embedded search results intelligently served-up based on a fancy back-end algorithm. This algorithm guesses what a visitor would have typed into the search box (if only one had existed). is a good example of it.

Right now, Google (presumably) has a nice margin between what they charge advertisers (via AdSense) and payout (via AdWords). This makes them a tidy profit.

But Yahoo! and Microsoft have similar products. As a content provider, you’d switch from AdWords if you made more money from the Yahoo! Publisher Network. But right now, your choice of contextual advertisements is all or nothing: you’re either with Yahoo! or Google or Microsoft. You have a few choices, but you’re forced to pick one and stick with them until you switch. Use tips for using Google posting to showcase new products and services, promote events, and even use them to post daily specials from your business.

This is quite coarse and inefficient. You’re leaving money on the table because it’s not really a question of whether you make more money overall from one company or another. What you should really care about is whether you can make more money for them (and thus from them) for this specific visitor at this specific instant in time.

Tim’s idea becomes:

[A]n alternative setup in which you send the search terms page URL to the engines and all they come back with is their per-click bid price, and then you only send the actual search to serve contextal ads of the winner.

If Microsoft and Yahoo! want to make a big dent in Google’s AdWords business, they should provide a pricing Web service for contextual advertisers. By providing transparency in the market, they’d commoditize away Google’s demand side, too.

If you were a company that made money from multiple channels and you were facing a large scary competitor that made 99% of its money from advertising, wouldn’t you do your best to erode as much profit margin from advertising as you could?

Re: Web 4.0.1

My cow-orker Jason Steinhorn has lept ahead to Web 4.0.1. Here are my initial thoughts on his ideas.

I think a key take-away is that big web companies with large data stores shouldn’t focus on creating one giant web site application.

Instead, they should make a number of applications that layer on top of their platform powered using the unique information and processing capabilities they have. Each application takes from and contributes back to a different, but complimentary, set of data.

[Insert cool picture here with overlapping circles]

I think Yahoo! does the best job of this on the Web right now. Some of their new services blend together more pieces than just their shared authentication system. (I really like the Travel Trip Planner site.)

This allows you to build up a larger and more robust data store that hits many segments of the population. If you just build the “it’s right for the middle 80%” application, you can get large, but you miss the long-tail of data. (Drink.)

The best way for this to happen is for that company to think of itself as another developer on the platform. Maybe not a co-equal developer, but a developer with benefits, so to speak. This helps ensure your platform is designed in a flexible and scalable manner — because you’ll be eating your own dog food — and you’ll be annoyed when your platform is a limiting factor.

Yet, at the same time, you’ll also be enabling others to build first class applications on the system — the key part of a vibrant platform — all of which contribute back to the data store. And, as Tim O’Reilly says, “Data is the Intel Inside of Web 2.0”.