EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2488 - February 28, 2011     5 of 5

Etsy Founder Rob Kalin Addresses User Concerns

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Etsy founder Rob Kalin has been keeping a low profile, but he resurfaced on discussion boards late last week to respond to users' concerns over recent changes to the site, including concerns that Etsy is trying to be more like a social networking site than a unique shopping experience.

"Shopping is itself a unique social experience," Kalin wrote. "This is what we're designing for. Sure, there's the basic grammar of social networking (be who you are, connect with others, see what they're up to). We have these basic building blocks now, and our goal is to utilize them to build a better shopping experience."

Etsy recently overhauled its discussion forums, turning them into "Teams," and launched Circles and Activity Feeds. Users can click the "Add to Circle" button on any member profile to add them to their circle, and from another user's profile, can click through to see that person's circle. But the changes have been controversial as some users have worried about their privacy, particularly when Etsy connected users email address books to the site through the "Find your friends" feature.

Etsy is also changing its homepage - instead of showing every visitor the same set of curated items, Etsy will begin personalizing the homepage for each visitor. Etsy also changed the header at the top of every page, including making the shopping cart more prominent.

Kalin wrote that Etsy was constantly monitoring how changes affect sellers. "We're obsessive about this, and we're always aware of how much is selling on the site. This number is strong and getting stronger. Over $1,000 per minute is sold on Etsy, and the changes we're making to the site have yet to hurt this." He said there were a quarter of a million active shops on Etsy.

Etsy has been criticized for allowing mass merchandisers to sell goods advertised as "homemade." Kalin said Etsy would triple the size of the content team, which is currently made up of five people whose responsibilities include tagging and policing resellers.

Etsy also removed the App Gallery links from the Community pages because, according to Justin Kerr Sheckler, Etsy's Developer API Lead, users weren't clicking on the links. The gallery showcases applications from third-party developers. He said there were still links to the App Gallery under Your Account and said, "We're working on a plan to bring more people into the App Gallery the right way - Community was probably never the best place to do this, because Apps aren't necessarily about building community or bringing people together. We're looking into ways to bring people into the App Gallery from the context of buying and selling on Etsy."

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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

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