|Tue June 25 2013 14:20:15|
Surprise, Cassini Already Launched on eBay
By: Ina Steiner
eBay launched its new search platform Cassini on eBay.com this month. The official announcement didn't come through a post on the eBay Announcement Board or through any communication sent to buyers or sellers. Instead, eBay's head of search Hugh Williams told a writer for Wired magazine.
"This month, the company has quietly rolled out to U.S. users its new search engine, known inside the company as Cassini," according to the article published this morning.
eBay spokesperson Ryan Moore confirmed that Cassini was "now fully serving U.S. customers," but could not provide the date eBay had rolled it out fully to eBay.com - "this month" was as specific as he could get when reached this afternoon.
Williams had told sellers during a recent webinar that Cassini was scheduled to roll out fully in North America by the end of this year, and internationally "by 2014." But there's been so much talk from eBay's executives about the need for a new search platform and so many delays in launching the new search platform that many users believe Cassini had already launched last year.
Why the secrecy about the official launch? It could be that eBay wanted to measure the impact on search behavior as in a laboratory - or sort of like a market research taste test where you don't know the restaurant has given you decaf instant coffee instead of regular brewed. Surprise!
However valid the intention might have been, it's just the kind of behavior from eBay that has sellers feeling marginalized. Especially when Williams was willing to share the information with a technology publication before sharing the news with eBay's own users, which it has still yet to do.
Wired magazine said eBay executives will measure the success of Cassini by how much better it converts searchers into shoppers, and it wrote, "EBay doesn't get props as a technology company the way archrival Amazon does. Despite his cheery disposition, that lack of cachet clearly bugs Hugh Williams."
In the world of online sellers, Williams can look forward to being painted either as a hero or villain, depending on how well their sales perform in the coming months. One sentiment they may share upon hearing the news: at least eBay didn't roll out the new platform during the all-important holiday shopping season.
While not quite an apples and apples comparison, today I observed a difference in eBay.com search results from the identical search on eBay UK. A search for "McCoy Pottery" on eBay.com brings back mostly listings of pieces of McCoy pottery, while on eBay.co.uk, there are many books about the pottery included in search results.
The eBay UK results are picking up items included in the "Price Guides & Publications" subcategory of Pottery & Glass, while the eBay.com results appear to be only picking up books that were mis-categorized by sellers as McCoy pottery. How eBay is doing that and whether it's an advantage for all types of searches remains to be seen.
The question for sellers becomes whether their items are ranked higher or are left out of results thanks to the new technology and algorithm.
What are your observations about eBay's new search platform, and what questions do you have about Cassini that you'd like to see answered?