eBay Details 'Open' App Store Plans
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eBay's new application catalog
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SAN FRANCISCO --eBay is making its pitch to developers, encouraging them to create apps for the auction giant's new application marketplace it plans to release this summer.
eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) yesterday introduced an enhanced version of its eBay Selling Manager, which will offer third-party tools designed to aid the site's 25 million sellers, who deal in everything from baseball cards to vacation homes.
For now, some of the details surrounding eBay's marketplace -- where those third-party apps will be sold to sellers -- remain a work in progress, with company execs admitting that they hope to learn from developer feedback on how best to tailor the program.
One benefit for would-be users is that eBay said it would require all programs to have a seven-day free trial. The company hasnt decided whether payment for an app would begin immediately after the trial or if the user would have to take an additional action to purchase.
Already, eBay's seen interest from third-party developers in creating applications for Selling Manager. Jordan Colletta, vice president of e-commerce marketing at shipping giant UPS, said the company would begin offering a free application to aid eBay sellers.
The introduction of Selling Manager as a developer platform comes as a marked shift for eBay. For years, third-party developers have offered tools for eBay sellers, but the concept of a marketplace for downloadable, third-party applications -- popularized by the iPhone's App Store -- will provide a central distribution and billing mechanism for these programs.
Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) takes a 30 percent cut of what an iPhone developer charges in exchange for handling distribution and payments; eBay says it plans to take 20 percent.
"I don't think we've done as good a job in the past showing what a great opportunity there is to develop for eBay," said Mark Carges, eBay's CTO and senior vice president of platforms, during a press event here in conjunction with the Web 2.0 Expo.
Opening up PayPal
Selling Manager isn't the only eBay feature to which the company expects to attract developers. Carges also discussed eBay's plans to open up its PayPal payment service to third-party developers for the first time.
"It's not sexy, but payments is like electricity," he said, noting programs won't be limited to augmenting just PayPal itself. "Other platforms need payment mechanisms as well."
While Apple's App Store includes a payment mechanism, Carges said PayPal is a more complex platform.
"We've had to integrate with over 15,000 banks and credit-card companies, so we have an end-to-end view of transactions," he said.
Carges said the opportunity for developers to build out PayPal's capabilities is huge. As one example, he predicts that someone will figure out how to monetize Twitter feeds, even if it's only for pennies per transaction.
PayPal also will give publishers the option to integrate payment services into their systems, so there's no discreet PayPal service they have to enter, like visiting a separate Web page to complete a transaction.
A lightweight vetting process
As for the eBay app store, many details of how it will work are still being developed. Max Mancini, eBay's senior director of platform and disruptive innovation, said that the company initially will engage in "lightweight vetting" of applications.
"Over the first six months, we'll learn more of what we need to do," he said.
But he did say that anything that raises privacy concerns won't pass muster. "People will try and game the system, but we'll find them and kick them off," Mancini said.
He added that eBay's goal is to make its app store as open to developers as possible, and he doesn't anticipate restricting applications deemed competitive to the company's own offering, as Apple has been accused of doing with its own App Store.
"I would be more than happy if someone developed a feature that did a better job than something we charge for," he said.
eBay also plans to do some innovative things to promote third-party applications, the company said.
For example, Mancini said that it's likely eBay eventually will be able to generate targeted, interstitial