eBay Opens Platform to 3rd Party Developers

In Chicago today eBay will kick-off of their annual eBay Developer's Conference by announcing Project Echo, a way for outside developers to integrate their apps "directly onto the world's largest ecommerce site". More specifically this means that third party seller tools can be included within eBay's popular Selling Manager, much the same way other platforms like Salesforce.com allow third party Integration:

Today’s decision to open the site marks the first time eBay has invited developers to submit seller tools for inclusion directly onto eBay Selling Manager, an online tool for managing and tracking listings on eBay. More than 700,000 professional eBay sellers subscribe to Selling Manager, which until now has consisted entirely of applications developed in-house at eBay. By giving developers the opportunity to showcase their tools to eBay’s most active sellers, eBay aims to help developers and sellers alike create new revenue streams and maximize their ability to make money through eBay

There will be a gallery of third party applications available along with the ability for users to directly subscribe to or install those applications (see below for an example). Project Echo will enter private beta in Q4 of this year and public beta in early 2009.


And this should indeed open new opportunities for developers making money from eBay's APIs by providing "sell side" tools. These are often subscription based and include companies like Terapeak. The other primary class of eBay developers are on the "buy side", often making money from affiliate revenue via content sites, shopping comparison services, etc., (a variety of which can be seen in the 139 eBay mashups here on PW).

And while eBay's developer program may not get the same headlines that API providers like Google and Amazon garner, if you look at these just released metrics you'll see they've seen some very impressive growth, especially in the past year:

  • The eBay developer program started in 2000 (the first real Web 2.0-style Web Service API)
  • Over 60% of all eBay.com listings now come through eBay Web services, with 28% of the total coming through third-party tools (the rest through eBay's own tools like Selling Manager, which also uses their APIs)
  • eBay handles 6 billion API calls per month (18 billion in Q1 2008)
  • There are 70,000 developers in the program, a 40% increase in the last 12 months
  • Approximately 12,000 third party apps, up from 4,800 in Q1 of 2007

Given that they've been in the API game for longer then anyone, why the big growth in the past year? Last week I asked eBay Developer Program senior manager Kumar Kandaswamy this, and while there were a variety of factors, the core answer was "simplicity". Simplicity driven in many ways by substantial changes eBay made to their APIs in 2007, dividing their core APIs into functional buckets such as the simpler read-only Shopping APIs and the richer (read more complex) Trading APIs. The benefits of the simpler Shopping APIs include: faster round-trip times (up to 20x faster response), smaller data payloads, and simpler data formats using JSON and name-value pairs. Last year they also added support for JavaScript, Flash and Flex.

All of these moves towards simplicity helped substantially broaden their developer base and lead to really solid growth for an already established web service. A good lesson in providing open APIs.

Be sure to read the next Financial article: Monetize Chat Apps with AIM Money