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eBay Launches Ambitious Plan to Manage User Identities

eBay sellers

eBay sellerseBay wants to eliminate the need for users to have passwords, though it’s not the first time eBay has laid out ambitious plans when it comes to managing user identities.

Ashok Balasubramanian wrote in a blog post last week that eBay Identity has taken on the goal of “killing passwords for eBay users once (and) for all,” while acknowledging it’s an ambitious and “not trivial” task.

eBay’s First Attempt: 2011
In 2011, eBay and its PayPal unit (at the time) had set out to create an ambitious global shopper identity system in which shoppers could sign in to websites with their “Commerce Identity” tied to PayPal. The identity system would include shopping profiles so retailers could show shoppers targeted offers.

The system was being developed under a unified developers program called X.commerce headed by Neal Sample for all eBay Inc. properties, including PayPal, Magento, eBay, GSI Commerce, Where and Milo.

X.commerce and its Commerce Identity project fizzled out, and Sample left the company the following year.

This time around, the much smaller (post-breakup) eBay is counting on social networking sites to help. Balasubramanian wrote, “Social sign up is the next big step in the on-boarding experience charter. Social sign up focuses on delegating authentication to social websites.”

eBay’s Current Attempt: 2018
In his blog post, Balasubramanian didn’t say when the company took on the task but noted that a challenge was eBay’s legacy on-boarding service built in 2005. “We were crawling when we were supposed to fly,” he wrote. “So, we took up the task of creating a new user on-boarding service, using latest coding standards, that can facilitate seamless on-boarding of customers to eBay.

“We recently launched the new on-boarding service live to the customers.”

He went on to describe the technical aspects of the system, noting that, “At eBay Identity, we embed security and risk detection at every phase of user state management.” (eBay understands the importance of security all too well, having had its databases breached in 2014.)

Interestingly, Balasubramanian noted that eBay runs “device profiling” as part of on-boarding, which he said was one of the key signals to the risk system in detecting and preventing ATO (Account Take Over) for the user – ATOs are a concern for sellers on all online marketplaces.

Another area he called out in his post: verification, which includes IP address and useragent of the browser. eBay determines the risk level of users trying to onboard with eBay, and “all HIGH risk users will be either blocked or challenged with email, phone, and or credit card verification to confirm their identity. The user will be on-boarded only when this verification step is complete.”

Some of the milestones he mentioned on eBay’s journey to become password free were the following:

– eBay launched Google Sign-In for Android last year.

– eBay open sourced “Universal Authentication Framework (UAF),” a component mainly focused on password-free authentication working with FIDO Alliance.

– eBay enabled Touch ID and Face ID on devices that supported them as soon as they were launched.

You can read the post on the eBay corporate blog.

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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/.

2 thoughts on “eBay Launches Ambitious Plan to Manage User Identities”

  1. Doomed for failure.

    This is nothing more than a crafted recruiting device for eBay to have their talent acquisition teams float engineering applicants so it appears eBay’s actually working on something “cool” and not the “lame” reputation has in the tech sector.

    Sometime in the not-too-distant future eBay will announce success by adopting (or copying) something that will be industry standard by that time (and send out another press release).

    Which is precisely what just happened when they copied the now-common Spotify, Flipboard, etc interests “bubbles” and called it their own curated “interests” shopper innovation.

    EBay can’t launch a simple gimmicky promo without their site glitching out. Their entire platform is rampant with glitchy problems of all magnitudes as anyone that keeps an eye on Technical Issues eBay community forum and the EKG and blog comments here at ECB is well aware.

    As an example (since the Android app is mentioned in the blog post), eBay has struggled to fix their Android app in order to allow multiple picture background uploads, though they have been purportedly trying in vain since 2015 according to some of the community posts.

    A value stream map of the Android listing workflow shows eBay could significantly increase productivity of sellers using the app.

    I estimate a seller who can list 20 items a day with the app with 12 photos could list 50-60 items a day with an improved app with tweaked workflow and background image uploading capability.

    Lofty tech goals make for great press releases and recruiting gimmicks, but the lack of basic blocking and tackling doesn’t give anyone confidence the platform is a reliable one to build such ambitious pursuits upon.

    Expect the end result for this initiative to truly epitomize the “minimum” in “minimum viable product”.




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