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Whitman: eBay For 'Social Commerce'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Millions of people use eBay every day to purchase or sell goods online. But eBay CEO Meg Whitman told a crowd of over 1,000 Internet execs and investors here the site is more than just and quickie place to buy and sell.

"We're going to do $7.6 billion in revenue this year, and I'm convinced a lot of it is about social commerce and shared interest, not just people going in and out."

Meg Whitman
Whitman
Source: Web 2.0 Summit

Whitman addressed a number of topics during a Q&A session here at the Web 2.0 Summit Thursday. While disappointed with having to write off over a billion dollars in charges related to its acquisition of Skype, Whitman said she's still bullish on the VoIP provider.

"The price of innovation is greater than the price of missed opportunity," she said. "A positive development this past year is that we put more distance between [Skype] and the competition."

Niklas Zennstrom, Skype's co-founder and former CEO, left the company this month. Whitman said eBay is actively looking for a new CEO for Skype that could come from Europe "where Skype is a verb" or from within eBay.

She also said there was nothing exclusive about eBay's announcement yesterday of its deal with MySpace, adding that the company could do something similar with Facebook or other social networks.

E-commerce outfits such as eBay regularly lobby against the imposition of new taxes on their sales. "Every state government would love to have an Internet sales tax because they're all looking for more revenue," said Whitman. There are also far too many different state regulations and fees that are "impossible to navigate" she added.

But Whitman also said "a harmonized, universal tax that was simple to understand wouldn't necessarily be deleterious" if it didn't apply to small sales.

Finally, Whitman covered classified advertising. The company owns a 30 percent stake in Craigslist, which she said has "enabled us to learn a lot more about the business."

She said eBay will continue to expand its own classified ad sites worldwide. Whitman said eBay's Kajiji site is either the No. 1 or No. 2 classified site in about 400 cities worldwide.

Craigslist's famously egalitarian founders aren't bothered by eBay's efforts, according to Whitman. "They say 'We don't think about competition. If others can do a better job with a great differentiated product, so be it.'"



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