Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sat Oct 27 2012 23:55:25

eBay: All Style, No Substance

By: Ina Steiner

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The latest eBay search fiasco speaks volumes about how out-of-touch the marketplace is with its buyers and sellers and third-party developers and is another sign that the company remains focused on style over substance.

EcommerceBytes received confirmation from eBay it was deprecating wildcard search capability and reported the news on Monday. Not only was the company unapologetic to buyers and sellers for making the change, it still hasn't informed its users about doing away with this important search function.

eBay did not respond to EcommerceBytes' requests for information about how the change would impact the Finding API that affiliates use extensively. But three days later, eBay apologized to third-party developers who make their money through its affiliate program after they read the EcommerceBytes report and made inquiries of their own.

eBay has no internal advocates for buyers and sellers, but apparently it does have an advocate for affiliates who drive traffic to the site. The next day, Friday, eBay was yet again apologetic to affiliates and said it was able to push back the deprecation date of wildcard searches from the October 29th target date to November 5th. (Still no announcement of the change to buyers and sellers.)

eBay is having some serious issues with technology. Among the glitches impacting the eBay marketplace - sellers are currently unable to use analytics and traffic reports thanks to technical issues.

It's been 4 years since eBay announced it needed to overhaul its search engine, but Cassini, which was scheduled to roll out this year, has been postponed.

Previously planned migrations of clients to GSI's next generation ecommerce platform (V11) have been delayed into 2013 and beyond. Only 15 GSI clients leverage eBay.com as a distribution channel to expand their businesses domestically, along with a few clients who are using eBay to expand their global footprint outside the U.S.

Rather than hunkering down and focusing on core technology issues, eBay threw a big party this year to announce a new logo and a new homepage design that added a Pinterest-like element to the page. This, not a new search engine, was "the new eBay."

This week, eBay was surprised at the reaction from developers about wildcard search deprecation, and that's because eBay has neglected developers who provide tools to buyers and sellers. In 2009, eBay opened up its platform to developers so that sellers could access third-party applications without leaving eBay, hailing the opportunity as a way to leverage its ecosystem of developers. But, as usual, eBay was ambivalent about giving developers too much access or control.

In November 2009, eBay threw a big PayPal developers conference to launch its open platform called "PayPal X." The following year, it didn't even have a conference for eBay developers. (Update: that should read, In 2011, it didn't have a conference for eBay developers.)  In October 2011, it threw a big X.commerce Innovate developers conference emphasizing Magento and to a lesser degree PayPal.

This year, eBay closed the marketplaces open platform and held no developers conference for eBay or PayPal. (Magento carried on with its own Imagine conference.)

The media who attend these annual events get amnesia about the previous year's message. Those who seemed so excited about PayPal's open platform and then about X.commerce "ecommerce operating system" were excited to see a "new eBay" this year - but there were no questions about previous years' stalled initiatives.

eBay is a bit like the landlord who freshens up the outside of a building each year with cosmetic changes while doing nothing to improve the living conditions for tenants inside.

But it seems rather like the same eBay on the inside to its users.




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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Sun Oct 28 00:36:29 2012

With this move eBay is essentially telling buyers and sellers: "SHUT UP...we do not have to tell you anything anymore."

At the start of his alleged 3 year turn around plan which we are in year 6 of,  CEO John Donahoe promised sellers there would be advance notice with regard to seller facing changes. At the same time, Donahoe promised that there would not be any changes imposed in the 4th QTR.

Now I realize Mr Donahoe is busy flitting around the world in the ebay corporate jet, but the fact that this is a seller facing change occurring in the 4th QTR should not be lost on him.

There are some questions that need answers...

  1. Has John Donahoe lost control over his subordinate management team or are his fellow MBA's simply ignoring their CEO's commitment to sellers.

  2. If eBay is no longer going to abide by the promises made by their CEO, is it now open season where changes are going to be imposed at any time without benefit of advance announcement even during the holiday season?

 3. If it is open season, is their going to be an announcement to inform sellers that Mr Donahoe's commitment to sellers has now been declared null and void?

The blame for these holiday season changes imposed without announcement can be laid squarely on John Donahoe's shoulders. Mr Donahoe selected the management he apparently and apparently these MBA's no longer respect his authority and no longer feel it is necessary to abide by his promises.

The failure to communicate has become one of the biggest issues leading sellers to lose any remaining trust and faith they may have had in this company.

The good ship eBay has lost it's rudder and is wandering aimlessly. It's Captain, CEO John Donahoe must be confident the company can continue to cook the books to conceal any decline in sales resulting from the gross mismanagement under his watch.


Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

This user has validated their user name. by: eBankrupted

Sun Oct 28 00:44:40 2012

EBay's Schizoid-Beta™ test search cost them 50% of my lost sales while that time was spent reaching out to my customer base. With some targeted effort, I increased year over year sales while decreasing eBay fees™

eBay sales got a recent boost™
Did eBay enjoy starving us for 3 months while they ripped the lungs out of the core seller base?

It feels like the A team is on vacation, and the B team is an eBot™

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

by: AgendaSwallowsAll This user has validated their user name.

Sun Oct 28 02:23:31 2012

What have I missed that gave you the idea JD ever had anything in mind than the application of a singularly self-serving agenda. You say He promised the sellers, not a thing that has transpired
on ebay in these past 5 years give or take has been anything other than smoke & mirrors intended to keep the ebay buyer in place while changes to the business model were taking place. There isn't a single thing he's done that says he has any respect for sellers so I'm not understanding your surprise unless it was a tongue in cheek statement.

ebay is done, JD knows it. His less is more business model has failed for the way he applied it, insulting the intelligence of even the lesser intelligent he'd counted on to help him accomplish his task He is now taking matters in to his own hands not to create a working ebay business model but instead to soak every penny out of it through an application of changes intended only to appease Wall Steet long enough to cash in as much as he can prior to the site being nothing more or less a blip on the internet map if not far worse.

AgendaSwallowsAll, it has and will continue to do so in this instance and I'd about bet my life JD will at some point face criminal prosecution for what have most assuredly been crimes first against humanity and then against his stock holders.  

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Sun Oct 28 02:42:44 2012

“eBay: All Style, No Substance” … I agree 100%.

There is plenty of evidence of eBay’s criminal facilitation of wire fraud; but there is indeed no evidence at all of either style or substance …

These Bain “Masters of Business Asininities” that are running around in circles in the eBay executive suite, bumping into and tripping over each other, appear to have not the faintest idea of what they are doing; obviously, they have no contact with the world outside of the fenced yard, in the eBay executive suite, in which these headless turkeys are kept …

Clearly they are indeed having some very serious issues with technology; and gee, I thought they were supposed to be a technology company …

Regardless, there should no longer be any surprises about anything that this cretinous fool Donahoe does …

Check into eDropOff, I’m sure Corri McFadden will have a nice range of designer life jackets branded “Chan[n]el” that you can pay top price for and feel comfortable wearing 24/7 …

Bain, Bain, Bain. Think about that, those of you who may be thinking about casting a vote for Romney …

eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

by: trickstunt This user has validated their user name.

Sun Oct 28 05:25:19 2012

It's the secret and silent changes which speak more of the real substance of ebay. That's their style.

As for all the hype, it's the age old technique of conmen, snake oil salesman, ringleaders. Keep the buzz level up, keep shifting the focus.

In this case, one big clown and 400 or so little ones got out of a tiny car with loud horns then ran around honking in meaningless circles, so they shifted the spotlight to the trapeze lady, spinning while dangling from dentures, sure to fall. But not before the next sideshow.

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

by: Bloggo This user has validated their user name.

Sun Oct 28 06:12:43 2012

Here's some babble from this year's shareholders meeting.
Donahoe: I look at the improvement in the marketplace growth and I think it's extraordinary, growing 10-15 %. Devin Wenig says we can do much better.

Wenig: I agree with your assessment; the way I look at marketplaces is, phase 1 was to build a safe and trusted marketplace, phase 2 is to accelerate that growth, geographic expansion is part of that. We're looking at using our data - a long term sustainable differentiator.

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

by: tombaker This user has validated their user name.

Sun Oct 28 06:27:11 2012

Well associating this with the Presidential campaign of Romney is "off-your-meds" silly.

I will say this, if these changes are not rolled back, and attempted to be "corrected", the end result will be carnage.

Sellers will loose their busineses.  Not joking, this search change will take sellers out of the game.

Search this, or that, but measure the results, the result is sellers are not selling.

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

by: tombaker This user has validated their user name.

Sun Oct 28 06:42:54 2012

It all boils down to this.
-----> This is like when Netflix tried to split out their business into two models.  Users just canceled, off to Hulu, or Redbox.

This is at the NETFLIX screw-up level.  That stock was cut by 75%.

The New Search, will crater Ebay.  It is not fixable.  Its as if the lemming see the cliff, are watching some lemmings jump and die, but the lemming leader is still saying go forward with the New Search.

When I specifically search for a brand name, and get different brands included....it will never be right.   The new search needs to be trashed, or Ebay goes the way of MySpace.

I act as if someone from Ebay is reading this site, but I doubt they are.  They won't even respond to the Editorials here, or the reporters here.  

Sellers finally adapted to Best Match.....Cassini by design will always provide variable results, it thinks it knows

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

by: mylifeisgood This user has validated their user name.

Sun Oct 28 07:47:19 2012

You can spend all the money you want on fancy images and useless paint on a dump but in the long run a rehabed dump is still a dump with lipstick.

Until wallstreet and stockholders wake up the carnage will continue.

Like the rest of the failures in America wallstreet and the stockholders are brain dead.

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

by: wallflower This user has validated their user name.

Sun Oct 28 08:20:45 2012

''-----> This is like when Netflix tried to split out their business into two models.  Users just canceled, off to Hulu, or Redbox.

This is at the NETFLIX screw-up level.  That stock was cut by 75%.''

People could switch from Netflix to something else. We don't have a whole lot of viable choices as sellers.

Netflix users made a big stink and it was heard far and wide. Why can't ebay users do that? What would we have to do? Flood twitter with complaints? That seems to be the way to get attention these days.

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Sun Oct 28 08:25:20 2012

Ina's analogy of the Landlord & rent property is right on.

Buyers like ease & consistency in search. The LOOK of the search page seems to change daily every time I search lately. Finding the tools to filter search is like playing hide & seek.  

What harm does using wildcards do? Give searchers the tools to find what they are looking for since eBay's tools to filter never seem to be where they were the last time.

That sigh you hear is another buyer moving on in frustration.

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Sun Oct 28 09:57:28 2012

My dear Ina... THANK YOU for writing this! Thanks also for pointing out all of the abandoned initiatives as well as the media's amnesia. If reporters were doing their jobs, it would involve more than regurgitating eBay/PP press releases.

It's my firm belief that eBay will go the way of ''MySpace'' or ''AOL'' or ''AltaVista''. Still there, but just-there, barely... only a forgotten shell of its former self. A relic. A museum piece.

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

by: alixibloun This user has validated their user name.

Sun Oct 28 10:09:13 2012

Hey Ina you should know that Google News has pulled your story. Last night I checked Google News stories for eBay and this was near the top. Today it is completely gone!!! Can't even find it using the entire headline.

Guess Google doesn't want to pi$$ off one of their biggest advertisers...

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Sun Oct 28 10:49:43 2012

Hi Alixbloun! I can find it easily on Google. The bit.ly link below expands to the full link just below that.

bit.ly/TO2j2D

www.google.com/search?hl=en&newwindo
w=1&safe=off&output=search&sclient=psy-ab&q=eBay:+All+Style,+No+Substance&btnG=

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

by: alixibloun This user has validated their user name.

Sun Oct 28 11:38:06 2012

Hi Annie! Yes it can be found on Google, but not Google News. Was there last night. Never seen a story go *poof* like that before.

Go to Google News, search for eBay: All Style, No Substance
and see if it shows up.

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

by: Bloggo This user has validated their user name.

Sun Oct 28 11:56:29 2012

alixibloun is correct. This does seem suspect.

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

by: Bloggo This user has validated their user name.

Sun Oct 28 11:59:34 2012

If Coca Cola had dug it's heels in and refused to budge on "New Coke", that would describe ebay perfectly.

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

by: JoJo This user has validated their user name.

Sun Oct 28 13:12:08 2012

I'd be concerned, but I'm busy buying and selling elsewhere.  Relic indeed.

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Sun Oct 28 13:35:53 2012

Ebay has been a mess since Donahoe took over in 2008 and was determined to turn it into Amazon lite.  I wonder if anybody could figure out how much MORE they would have grown in revenue had they been managed appropriately?  Instead they've been throwing things at the wall just to see what sticks...the result....chaos!  I, for one, gave up on trying to find things on Ebay.  Amazon is my first stop and with good reason!  Ebay will never understand.  I'm sure their stockholders don't understand since their gain has been negligible since 2008 and I believe they still do not pay a stock dividend!

Perminate Link for eBay: All Style, No Substance   eBay: All Style, No Substance

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Sun Oct 28 14:03:29 2012

Basset asks: " What harm does using wildcards do? "

Only guessing here, but I would say that Cassini is a poorly coded search engine that can not handle the variables in a wildcard search.

I believe Cassini's inability to deliver results when a wildcard is included in search terms is the reason Cassini was delayed. Now, eBay has bragged so much about a new search engine, and as they have invested millions developing it, they believe they will be able to manipulate buyer behavior to eliminate the use of wild cards when searching.

eBay has decided to conceal the fact that they have spent millions on developing a search engine that is incapable of handling wildcard search queries by eliminating wildcard searches now, before Cassini is released. This avoids the necessity of imposing the change when Cassini is released and having it appear that the change is necessary as part of Cassini's implementation.

At the end of the day when the smoke clears and the truth surfaces, I am betting that eBay's choice to limit the number of items buyers can see in a search result is related to some kind of server resource management process. eBay apparently dreamed up a theory that they could devote fewer server resources if they designed a search engine that returned fewer items for buyers to select from, so to accommodate that theory, they created Cassini.

This eBay approach is kind of like building a house. The builder makes an error when he cuts the first board, and instead of correcting his error, decides he will simply adjust all the rest of the boards to accommodate his first cut mistake. The end result is far from what was originally designed.



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