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Will eBay Ban of Active Content Affect Your Listings?

eBay will ban active content, including JavaScript, Flash, plug-ins and form actions, which sellers use to enhance their listings and to power widgets, but also comes with some security issues, as we’ve previously reported.

In October 2014, eBay defended its use of active content. eBay’s Lynda Talgo said, “After a recent review of our processes and policies, we believe the benefits of allowing active content to our customers outweigh the extremely low likelihood of being exposed to them.”

eBay’s Brian Burke also downplayed the risks, saying JavaScript tends not to load quickly, Flash is not mobile-friendly, “and there are also some security concerns.” He made the comments during an eBay Radio broadcast on Tuesday that was dedicated to the Spring Seller Release announced earlier in the day.

However, eBay appears to be giving sellers a year to adjust to the changes. “Beginning with the Spring 2017 Seller Update, eBay will limit the use of active content in all new listings across all devices and it will not be rendered by default. By the Fall Seller Update 2017, we plan to remove or block listings with active content.”

Nevertheless, it encouraged sellers to limit their use of active content now, and said it was working with third-party partners used by sellers.

We checked in with some of those vendors to learn how they were responding to the announcement.

John Slocum of SixBit Software provided some examples of how sellers use active content, all of which look like useful applications:

  • Adding their own tabbed pane description.
  • Searching their store.
  • Links to video.
  • Image galleries or carousels.
  • Live chat.
  • Embedding buyer feedback.
  • Freight quotes

Slocum also said many third parties also add active content in the form of cross merchandising scrollers. He agreed that active content in eBay listings could cause the pages to load more slowly and said it doesn’t always show or work well on mobile devices and has some security concerns.

In fact, he said one of the main reasons he never created a scroller for SixBit was that he had suspected active contents days were limited on eBay.

A spokesperson for another tool for eBay and online merchants, Kyozou, said, “Our responsive design templates will be modified before the deadline to meet eBay’s changes while still providing our customers with the ability to create and maintain their unique branding and shopper experience.”

Kyozou already has standard features in place and has started on some adjustments. “With more customers using mobile to buy something instantly, enhancing their experience to make it quick and easy to buy is key to win that sale,” she said.

Auctiva is well known for its scrolling galleries that help eBay sellers cross-sell and merchandise their products, as well as offering a host of other tools for sellers. John Caplan, CEO of OpenSky, which acquired Auctiva, said his team has been working with their partners at eBay closely and will continue to do so.

Slocum said SixBit had one widget that he will need to rewrite due to the ban on JavaScript, but said it “wouldn’t be a big deal.” However, he noted that SixBit users may be impacted, since users are able to add active content to their descriptions and description wrappers. “Users have been able to add any active content they desired, and now will have to find an alternative,” he said.

But it could be an opportunity for sellers, he said, explaining:

“Some of the uses of active content are outdated and this may actually provide an opportunity for sellers to update the look of their listings. For example, many sellers had third parties create a custom template for their listings a long time ago that often contained tabbed panes for shipping information, payment information, etc. Those templates might also include boxes to search the sellers store. At a certain point in time though, eBay started providing these features right on the item page.”

There are already tabs for shipping and payment options as well as a store search provided by eBay, he said. “This might be a good time for sellers to re-evaluate and simply their templates.”

There are several features of SixBit that will help users get through the transition, he said. “When changes like this occur at eBay, it makes a strong case for needing a powerful tool like SixBit. Turbo Lister users or sellers using the Sell Your Item form are going to have a much more difficult time updating all of their listings to be compliant.”

Kyozou noted changes that eBay was making to its own listing tool for sellers who prefer to sell only on eBay. “Sellers in a competitive space need to explore increasing sales by adding a multi-channel sales strategy. This is where eBay partners can continue to help facilitate that growth and expansion,” she said.

eBay said it would provide more information later this year about the changes coming to active content next year. It may be best to wait for third-party vendors to communicate with you before making drastic changes to any active content in your listings.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.