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Shipscript Offers Help with eBay Active Content

Imagine the eBay user who has been selling on the marketplace for a decade or two, who over the years used multiple tools to help them sell more efficiently. Now imagine them having to go through all of their listings and make sure they are in compliance with eBay’s new mandate on active content that takes effect next month.

Because sellers’ listing descriptions could have holes if sellers’ haven’t stripped out active content by June, it could impact sellers ability to win SNAD claims, as we explained in this April EcommerceBytes blog post.

The developer behind Shipscript, who prefers to be called Ship, trained in Civil Engineering and has been working to take the pain out of eBay’s ban on active content since it first announced the mandate.

Ship, who is not an eBay employee, has been creating eBay tools for the past 15 years and thanks to volunteering advice and expertise on the eBay discussion boards, won a community award from eBay at its 2007 eBay Live conference.

Ship provided us with the following information that we think will help give you the confidence to understand what’s happening and what you can do to ensure your listings are not negatively impacted when eBay flips the switch. You can visit Shipscript’s eBay Tools section of the ISDNtek.com website to learn more.


Why can’t eBay just phase in the ban or grandfather listings?

What eBay has failed to communicate to sellers is that blocking Active Content is not an eBay invention. The web industry has specified the content that is to be blocked and how it is to be blocked.

This industry development has been in the works long enough that all the major browsers have now implemented the Active Content blocking feature, which is called sandboxing. All eBay is doing is turning on that feature. They have very little control over what is blocked once the switch is turned on.

Because it is built into the browser, it is not something that can be applied to some listings and not to others.

Why the short deadline for sellers?

eBay announced the transition a year ago, but most sellers ignore seasonal updates. To get the attention of sellers, eBay began inserting a preview feature in listings last year, regardless of whether or not the listing might contain active content. This caused a stir of confusion among those who noticed and did not understand the purpose.

In the past month, eBay has started sending out email notices to sellers whose listings do contain active content. Additionally, some of eBay’s listing management pages include notices and guidance, for sellers who pay attention to those pages.

So, while eBay has only recently ramped up its communications with sellers, the initial announcement actually came in the Spring 2016 Seller Update.

Why aren’t third-party apps up to speed?

When eBay pre-announced the upcoming changes to developers early in 2016, the specs were not fully defined. eBay knew they would implement the sandbox, but at the same time, eBay wanted to allow YouTube videos and links back to other eBay pages.

Under the standard “sandbox” rules, those would fail to display. eBay would need to relax some of the sandbox rules, as allowed by a few industry standard settings. There would be no “sandbox” method to allow YouTube and a couple of different ways to allow links, each with its own security risks, and it took eBay about 9 months to decide which path to take.

That links choice was announced at the end of February 2017. It is only from that point onward that third-party apps had a clear path to follow.

If eBay can find the Active Content, why can’t they just remove it?

I asked eBay this question a year ago. But then I answered my own question. While it might be simple to find and remove a tidy block of code like a widget, it is harder to deal with a page that is constructed by a script and that might be interlaced throughout the page. To remove the script might cause the page to disappear or turn into garbage.

eBay has always been reluctant to touch user content and certainly would not want to be responsible for the disappearance of the entire description. However, eBay could work toward identifying the scripts and allowing the seller to push a fixit button.

Why doesn’t eBay have better transition tools?

For the same reason third-party apps are just getting up to speed, so is eBay. As a programmer, I can understand that, while transition tools help sellers, they don’t help eBay’s bottom line.

eBay has various guidance and transition plans in the works, but development and integration into existing tools can take some time, and many aspects of eBay’s platform are more in need of attention than the transition. As harsh as it sounds, only a small minority of listings will require removal of Active Content. And eBay still has to program some sort of video implementation.

Because I operate with the little guy in mind, when eBay announced “Sandboxing” and their cooperative effort with i-ways a year ago, it took me only a week to create the free ActiveContentSandbox tool to highlight for sellers the offending code in their listings. Links were still an open question at the time, but at least sellers could identify and remove the active content on their individual listings.

By the end of summer, the free ActiveContentScanner could bulk scan listings to identify which listings had active content and which were of no concern. That allowed sellers who were seeing the advisory in their listings for the first time to at least scan their listings to see if they were affected. And later on, those receiving letters with “example” listings could scan their inventory to see if more were at stake.

And only recently, when eBay finally defined the links requirement, the self-service ActiveContentEditor was released to allow sellers to bulk revise their listings through eBay’s File Exchange.

These tools can be used alone or in conjunction with some of eBay’s tools, like their “Bulk Edit And Replace” tool and File Exchange.

What will happen if we don’t comply?

When the June implementation date rolls around, eBay will flip the “sandbox” switch and the buyer’s browser will no longer render any part of the listing that contains active content.

For most sellers, the effect will be minimal and the listing will look normal. For those whose templates rely on scripts to display essential elements, significant parts of the description may disappear or fail to function. For the most part, those elements seem to be photo galleries, terms tabs, and store navigation.

eBay warns that the missing content could adversely affect the seller if there are disputes or SNADs that would not have occurred had content been displayed.

Will my listings be removed?

eBay reports that listings will not be removed, or demoted in search, if they still contain active content on the June 2017 deadline; although they may be missing content that is essential to the purchase decision. However, in 2018, eBay may block any revisions or relists of items that still contain active content.

Here’s a link to eBay’s Weekly Chat from April on the topic of Active Content.

Note from the editor: We found this article about sandboxing on HowToGeek.com if you’re curious to learn more.

Ship said sometimes sellers don’t realize they have what a browser would identify as active content in their listings, but it can happen if sellers make errors while innocently editing the HTML in their listings, and sometimes even by pasting in Rich Text Format from a Word document rather than pasting plain text.

Here is eBay’s latest information about its Active Content ban.

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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). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.