RealTime IT News

Ebay Frees Its Developer API

Once upon a time, developers who needed to access eBay's application programming interfaces in order to connect to the auction giant's selling platform had to pay.

No more. As of today, Ebay will no longer charge for their use.

"The reason we're doing this is [because] we've been very successful in terms of acquiring developers and having them add value to eBay buyers and sellers and we wanted to continue that success," Greg Isaacs, director of the eBay developers program, told internetnews.com. "Our slogan is now innovation without barriers. We've now removed the economic barriers."

There is one catch to eBay's free API offer. Developers will have to use the new unified schema that eBay announced in February 2005 as a replacement for the legacy schema set to expire in June of 2006. If they stick with the legacy schema, they will still be charged at the previous rates.

Schema help define how developers make API calls to eBay's platform, as well as define how eBay delivers data, based on what's being requested. The move to the unified schema is intended to allow eBay to roll out code much faster and provide faster support.

When the developer API was originally launched in 2000 it came with two costs built in: a membership fee and a per API call fee.

By eBay's count, its Web Services platform currently facilitates 45 percent of all eBay listings and supports 2.5 billion API calls per month. The developer program itself now has 21,000 members and over 1600 third party developed applications.

Isaacs said the benefits of having a free API outweigh the revenue that the paid API brought in. "We think we'll get a lot more indirect benefit in terms of new users who are selling things and buying things then any direct revenue we'd get."

Existing eBay developers will however get some form of rebate.

Issacs said developers that paid a membership fee will get their money back on a pro-rated basis.

In a bid to entice developers to jump on the free API offer, eBay also announced the eBay Developer Challenge 2006 today. The program will award prizes for the best application developed either by an individual or as part of an open source team effort through eBay's Community Codebase project (codebase.ebay.com ).