|Thu July 12 2012 00:02:22|
eBay's Social Networking Plans
By: Brian Cohen
Is eBay planning to introduce social networking features? EcommerceBytes contributor Brian Cohen explains what some recent patents could mean for the online marketplace. Leave a comment and let us know what you think!
eBay may be planning on creating its own social network based on recently filed U.S. Patent applications. "Live Search Chatroom" patent filing describes an in-house social network while "Social Network Payment System" would latch onto pre-existing 3rd party social networks such as Facebook.
Live Search Chatroom sounds like something that came out of 1995 but its quite common for companies to obfuscate their filings in such a way to shield their trade secrets from competitive intelligence gathering. I wouldn't call the patent title misleading per se, but I did a double take when I was reviewing eBay's filing because it seemed a bit of an anachronism. Let's just say the patent is hiding in plain sight. ;)
Inside the filing eBay gives a Background as to the need of the social network invention that is ironically more insightful than the Patent Abstract.
"Typically, during the e-commerce process, only the server knows who is searching for what. However, sellers may not know the potential buyers who are searching for their products, and buyers with same interests may not have an easy way to exchange ideas on their searches. On the other hand, the search activities are typically individual based, and thus do not have the liveness and excitement of real world shopping. For example, buyers of the same interests may not put their heads together on a hot shopping area."
From the abstract:
"One embodiment provides a system of exchanging information between at least two parties over a network. The system includes a social media generator module,..." (I will spare you from the devil in the details)
The other patent application has the not-so-obscure title "Social Network Payment System." From the Background:
"Some users may belong to several different social networks that may include friend networks such as, for example, those provided by MYSPACE® and FACEBOOK®, business networks such as, for example, those provided by LINKEDIN®, review network such as, for example, those provided by YELP®, messaging networks such as, for example, those provided by TWITTER®, and/or a variety of other social networks known in the art. While these social networks provide users with many different ways to interact with their friends, business associates, and/or other relationships, one area in which they are lacking is in providing the ability for their users to make payments to other users within and/or outside the social network seamlessly (i.e., without leaving the social networking website.) Currently, if a user within a social network wishes to make a payment to another user, that user must retrieve an identifier for the user that is registered with, for example, a payment service provider, leave the social networking website, and go to a payment service provider website to schedule the payment using the identifier. Making payments in such a manner is undesirable and disruptive to the user's social network experience."
So eBay created (From the Summary):
"....The social network payment gateway allows a user in a social network to make payments to users in that social network and/or in other social networks without having to leave their social network. For example, the social network payment gateway may operate with a social network (e.g., through an embedded application) to allow a user to select users from a plurality of social networks, create payment requests for those users, and send those payment requests without ever leaving their social network...."
Its interesting to note that these patents were assigned to eBay and not PayPal. This is a bit surprising because PayPal of course processes payments on the eBay platform.
In 2011 eBay filed for 113 patents, and this year it appears to be on track to match or exceed 2011's numbers with 65 filed to date (Source: faqs.org). In 2011, PayPal applied for 1 patent and has applied for 3 patents so far this year (Source: USPTO.gov). I was unable find any patent filings for X.commerce.
About the Author
Brian Cohen has been an active member of the eBay community since May 1998. He currently trades under the member name Bidofthis.com. His first AuctionBytes article was published in May 2002. Brian can be contacted through his website at BidofThis.com where he always has a "little Bid of This and little Bid of That."