Chicken Littles and eBay's X Factor
1. eBay = 170MM+ users, Craigslist = 10MM unique monthly visitors, Google Base = not launched
2. Paypal = 87MM+ users, Google Purchases = not launched
3. Skype = 55MM+ users & 188MM downloads, Google Talk = ?
I admire Google for its ability to innovate and introduce new products seemingly at will. Without doubt, they are the clear leaders in Search. I have a number of friends who work at Google and who are some of the smartest folks I know. That said, eBay has a few smart people as well, working with a singular focus on making eBay a global trading platform without parallel. Ultimately, what makes eBay, Paypal and Skype unique is the multi-million member communities that drive and thrive on these platforms (irregardless of the above bloggers' view of the eBay UI). Successfully managing massive communities where trust, communication and common interests intersect is hard, if not near-impossible. eBay, Paypal and Skype have succeeded by empowering these tens/hundreds of millions of users to interact with one another on the basis of trust (how easy is that to replicate?). eBay's success and future is only a mirror of the success and potential of these 200MM and growing community members...
There have been numerous auction/shopping sites, person to person payment services and VOIP providers that have come to the market. Ultimately they fall short of enabling their communities to scale as eBay, Paypal and Skype have done. Google may or may not end up to be a strong competitor, but as Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, Citibank, Amazon, Taobao (and yes even Overstock) have learned, while it may be possible to replicate eBay's technology platform or business model (believe me that ain't easy), it's 'a mite' harder to copy the collective community of users which drives eBay, Paypal and Skype's success.