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eBay: Bidding Big For Contextual Ad Dollars

Heads up Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon.com: eBay is heating up your contextual ad competition. It's also pitching to win developers' hearts and minds the old fashioned way, with cash.

The auction giant is aggressively expanding its developer offering with no less than four new APIs  that will enable search, shopping cart and product info, along with its Contextual Keywords API.

The eBay "Get Contextual Keywords" API is expect to be launched in beta within the next few weeks, according to Greg Isaacs, director of eBay's Developers Program.

"A developer submits a URL to eBay and then we will do the heavy lifting of looking at the content of that page and then delivering back to the developer ranked keywords based on the content of the page," Isaacs told internetnews.com.

"Then the developer can obviously show items related to those particular keywords."

Developers can earn revenue for their efforts as part of eBay's affiliate programs when a transaction or bid occurs as the result of a click on a contextual keyword ad.

Contextual keywords are certainly nothing new. Overture (now part of Yahoo!), is credited with pioneering the concept and Google's AdSense program has helped underscore how lucrative the ad dollars can be. But the program is a new foray by eBay in a bid to expand its affiliate base and drive additional revenues.

Ebay's developers will also have at least three other opportunities to leverage new APIs for the auction site.

One is the Get Product API, which will enable developers to do queries of eBay's product database.

Isaacs said a user would, for example, search for a term and then will get a stock description, user reviews as well as auction listings. The effort is intended to help developer applications be more 'sticky' as well as help to drive affiliate revenue.

The other two new eBay APIs include an expansion of eBay's Express technology within their own applications. EBay express (http://www.express.ebay.com) is a new eBay site, still in preview mode, that provides a tailored product set for users based on items that are new and available right away.

Unlike the traditional eBay site, however, eBay Express offers shopping cart functionality that helps users add items to carts from multiple vendors and check out whenever they want.

Ebay's Get Search Results Express API will allow developers to search eBay Express and then show those items to their own users. Beyond just enabling search, eBay is also going to open access to the eBay Express shopping cart as well with the eBay Express Shopping Cart API.

"If you have your own website and you show eBay Express items, the user can then click on the items they want and they will then show up in the shopping cart and the user can then buy whenever they want," Isaacs said.

Isaacs noted that new API's will be available for free as are the rest of eBay's developer APIs. Ebay changed its pay per use model for developer API's last November to a free for all model.

It's all part of an expanding developer ecosystem that eBay is trying to foster.

"A developer now has a growing number of options in terms of how they actually build their products not only in terms of open source code and all the benefits there but also taking these Web Services and pulling in content and creating applications that couldn't have been created before," Isaacs said.

"I think we're really at the tip of the iceberg."