eBay Closes Open Platform to Concentrate on X.Commerce
By Ina Steiner
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. Since then, developers have launched applications such as listing templates, email-management, inventory bar-coding labels, review gadgets, video players, shipping and payments services, research and reporting services and bookkeeping services. Sellers initially accessed the apps through eBay's Selling Manager software.
eBay recently closed the eBay Open Apps API (formerly called SM Apps) to new developers. According to a message on the site, "The Open eBay Apps program is no longer accepting new applications. The Open eBay Apps documentation is provided as a convenience for existing Open eBay Apps developers only."
EcommerceBytes asked eBay for more information, and whether it indicated the eBay open platform was a failure.
eBay spokesperson Johnna Hoff said absolutely not. "SM Apps are a great way for third-party developers to build tools that connect buyers and sellers in new ways" and she said over 40 participating developers have built one or more active apps that will continue to be accessible to eBay sellers.
The reason for closing the program to new developers, she said, was the launch of X.commerce. "As you know, last year we announced the X.commerce division of eBay, to enable third-party developers to create apps across eBay properties. As we continue to build the X.commerce ecosystem, we expect new opportunities. As this transition occurs, we are focusing efforts on existing SM App developers."
Some of the available open apps are free, and while some developers charge sellers a monthly subscription fee (of which eBay receives 20 percent), they did not see SM Apps primarily as a direct revenue driver, but rather, as a marketing tool.
Developers have always had a challenge reaching sellers to let them know about their tools and services - in fact, that's one of the major complaints one hears from developers. As a result, many of them were drawn to SM Apps as a marketing opportunity.
Steven Aldrich, CEO of Outright.com, said that's exactly why his company began working with eBay early on, and he said he thinks of the open eBay platform as a distribution channel. "I've found Open eBay Apps to be a good way to get in front of eBay customers. It has given a boost to the number of eBay users who find out about Outright, and we have very, very strong ratings."
Another company called 3Dsellers that offers a tool called SocialStore to help sellers drive traffic from Facebook to their eBay listings, is an exception. 3Dsellers COO Shiran Kleiderman said SM Apps has given the company a "direct revenue, a marketing platform and a great opportunity to meet eBay sellers," and he said its main business is built on the apps center.
3DSellers has launched eight apps through the program and is currently upgrading some and developing new apps. Kleiderman said, "I can say on behalf 3Dsellers that we're here to stay and that we've also checked out the new X.commerce API, so new and diverse apps are on our road-map."
It will be interesting to see how eBay developers fare with X.commerce, whose sweet spot is Magento rather than eBay. Aldrich says Outright is already working with X.commerce and said it had much more data (including all of eBay Inc.'s business units, including Magneto and GSI Commerce, not just eBay data) and is more powerful than eBay Open Apps. He is looking forward to the public launch of X.commerce apps later this year.
About the author:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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