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2007-02-13

 

How to best integrate eBay and Skype beyond "Skype me!"

It's already over one year that we heard the big news about Skype was acquired by eBay. However today, I'm afraid that few people is still excited on the merge. Many people,like Laura Martin, an analyst with Soleil-Media Metrics, says "It's still unclear how it(Skype) benefits the core eBay platform. And monetization has been slower to occur than we had hoped".

Not only the monetization, but also the basic idea. The problem can be reflected to a too simple thinking on the subjective synergization and eBay. At least eBay guys believe on the intuitive concept that buyer and sellers of Skype would pick up their headset to talk to each other for free. It's called "Skype Me!" model. But why "Skype Me!" doesn't work on eBay today?  The answer is also very simple, any transactions are based on informative context.  The context may include the people behind, the comments to the goods by other users, the bidding situation, as well voices and pricing information, etc. Before finding the right people to call, people will spend more time on exploring the right stuffs for them. The time space is real magic niche for eBay/Skype synergization.

What's the magic could be? It is from RSS.  Currently, eBay doesn't take full advantage of RSS to benefit all users. The API of eBay has shown its potential on openness. Also eBay has a strong back-end computing power as a leading e-commerce platform(or a software company as eBay's CEO ever said). RSS is supported by eBay platform as a default for search result. There are mashup applications like RSSAuction.com adds category-based and advanced search feeds.  However, eBay doesn't provide any transaction tracking feeds for end users. Maybe its for security consideration, but it's really necessary to boost transactions. If people involves in any deals, they would like to follow the deal and check back continuously. So RSS can be useful here. People will be more productive to make their deals, at least from timing perspective. It can be made safe with embeded token, so security issue is not an excuse to eBay. eBay should open up personalized feeds as an enabling service firstly.

But its just half done targeting the whole problem. Skype is a natural born killer of P2P application platform that with huge computing potentials too. Skype is used to be regarded as the VOIP application. Most of the users don't know it's one of the best instant messenger client. It's much better than other IMs on chatting experience especially for its group chatting and relayed message functions.  In the earthquake period last year, many eastern Asian countries were highly impacted by disabled Internet access. The big sufferers were those centralized IMs, like MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger, etc. However, many Skype users were happy to see they can keep regular Skype chatting with less impact.  Skype grabbed a lot of users from this accident that the company may not realize. The problem to Skype is they were always reluctant to open its protocol and reduced the interest in developing community.

Anothr.com, a Skype-based RSS subscription service emerged since Oct. 2006, seems a great combination of Skype and eBay feeds. The neat no-software-installation service soon gathered a lot of global users, especially those geeks. It transfers Skype into an instant information delivery platform. Based on eBay's current RSS feed, Anothr can help end users to track their search result on some specific items or product models. Also if eBay would like to do more on feeds, the Skype-based RSS notifier can help track your personalized transactions easily. If such service integrates eBay authentication system, RSS pushing engine with more secure and stable design.

A Skype-based RSS alert tool can deliver instant notification from eBay platform to end users with either goods or personal transaction information. The more people pays attentions on their interested items, the more opportunities they will make deal. Instant Transaction Message(ITM) shows its potential here. With RSS the glue, eBay and Skype can really integrate to become a loosely coupled partner to generate biggest value to end users. Skype, if realizes the potential of ITM, can set "chat" as default option if people click their contact names. At least, it's more polite for people to check status before dialing.

ITM is not just applicable to eBay/Skype one case, instead it uncovers the curtain of next generation of e-commerce. A new wave of technology that we call it "Microformats" is emerging. Microformats will cover any structured data formats we may deal with everyday. Google Base, a potential competitor to eBay, is trying to simplify the publishing of transaction information online to enable p2p commerce. At the same time, Web 2.0 revolution is disrupting eBay's advantages on Internet commerce from another angle. It's now the best time for eBay to response, or they may have to face tougher situation to fight in more frontiers. Skype is the key, but depends on how to use it.


References:
EBay Pressured to Move on Skype




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