EBay held its first INNOVATE developer conference this week (in San Francisco), heralding, perhaps, a new era in the way online shopping gets done. They announced the launch of a new open platform for commerce – X-commerce. From an elastic enterprise perspective what’s interesting is that eBay is out there as a real live model of how to do business platform and ecosystem strategy. It’s an elastsic enterprise in the making.
Nick will write more about it later today but I wanted to jump in and point out the main elements. First, it is a very interesting, strategic moment for eBay as it seeks to extend itself across the emerging social commerce space.
“We’re at an inflection point”, eBay CEO John Donahoe said from the stage at Innovate, eBay’s brand new developer conference that launched today in San Francisco. “We’ll see more change in how consumers shop and pay in the next three years than we’ve seen in the last 15 years”, quotes TechCrunch.
eBay like many companies has opted to kick-off its new platform with a large public conference – 3,000 developers attended. PayPal, an eBay company did something similar earlier this year. I’d cautious about the big bang approach – developers reacted only luke warmly to an announcement that eBay would integrate with Facebook’s Open Graph.
A different approach would have been a smaller JAM or HACKATHON where developers collaborate through the day and produce one or two applications. But there’s no doubt eBay has enough to pack a large conference. Adaptive APIs and local commerce caught my attention
We will demo building cool things with Milo APIs that make interacting immediately with the real world as fun as buying that neat shirt you see on TV or playing a game that introduces items you can shop for. We will also introduce and demo Where products and APIs for the Ad and Deals Network, the recommendation engine, and the PlaceGraph™.
Whichever route you take, the important end result is to create or at least seed a new business ecosystem.
First base is to have an easy to use registration process and software development kit (SDK) and clear explanations of the application programming interfaces and the commercial opportunity.
At this stage of a platform strategy, eBay is asking the developer community to co-innovate the way online commerce is done. Merchants must also buy into that paradigm.
In fact on x-Commerce, the name of the new eBay platform, it looks like developers need to go to the respective sub-components – PayPal, eBay, Magenta, to get the SDKs and to access their forums, in addition to the X-Commerce packages. So for me the first thing I’ve hit on is confusion – there is no branded umbrella X-commerce that replaces the components. I have to be in four different places in order to participate.
From here eBay will have to convince developers and merchants to become involved. To do that they will need a campaign that makes a compelling case for developers who have a number of opportunities across the mobile space as well as other web APIs that working with eBay will create sound financial returns. And they will need merchants who want to jump in and trial new approaches to online business.
That makes for a pretty unique ecosystem, combining developer and merchant in one community – most apps right now are custom-built by a developer on request from a merchant which seriously limits the elasticity benefits of an API because it creates no ecosystem.
We’ll be keeping an eye on the eBay experience. 3,000 people sat down with them this week to hear if this is a viable elastic enterprise in the making. if it works, eBay’s business could scale rapidly at very low cost – the ideal for an elastic enterprise. We’ll see what happens and we’ll be watching with keen interest.