Last month CIO Insight magazine published a piece by Edward Cone "Inside eBay's Innovation Machine", an interesting report on the importance of APIs and developer network to eBay's overall strategy. It's a worthwhile read, especially in terms of the scope of their program, how it's run, and where the money is. Some highlights below:
- 40,000 independent developers from 100 countries in their network and it doubled in size between mid-2005 and mid-2006. During that period sellers using third party tools like Infopia increased by 50%. (Note that during that period eBay dropped API access fees see our coverage here). The story notes that 25% of eBay listings are created by third party tools using their API. And some misc eBay stats: nearly $50 billion worth of goods sold last year and 1.3 million people make their living on eBay.
- Their developer community includes venture-funded companies like Terapeak (and Seattle's Mpire, listed here but not part of report).
- The success factors for a developer network including forums, tools, documentation, support, a sandbox test environment, knowledge base, certification program, developer's conference, published product roadmap, and multi-language samples and SDK tools. (See also notes from Amazon's Jeff Barr on their devnet.)
- Developers have helped eBay reach new platforms like mobile, television and interactive voice.
- Sometimes eBay-developer relationship is "complicated". This can happen when strategic conflicts occur such as when eBay launched their own tool to compete with Terapeak. Terapeak's marketing director Dave Frey notes that "eBay is a supplier, a marketing channel and a competitor."
- eBay has acquired developers, as they when they bought CARad, a specialized app for automotive listings. Note that Salesforce.com also has acquired developers using their platform.
- From an infrastructure perspective they scale horizontally with the motto "If you can't split it, you can't scale it" (split-to-scale). A new version of their site is pushed every two weeks. For more on eBay's infrastructure, this eWeek story notes they now run on 15,000 servers, mostly Sun and IBM.