Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Microsoft loves Fremont

I drive by Fremont every day on my way home (take the Mission Blvd exit off 880). Nice, clean suburb near to San Jose with pretty bad traffic. Let's hope Microsoft's Fremont doesn't have the same issues. New and improved Mr. Softie is launching a competitor to Google Base/Craigslist, codename Fremont (article here).

It's no surprise Microsoft would launch a listing service... what's more interesting is how quickly the response from MS came. Could it be possible that the MS Live platform and adherence to Web 2.0 principles is driving increased innovation and speed to market for a huge company like MS? With Microsoft Max and now Fremont launched in short order (in Beta like all other Web 2.0 apps), that seems to be the case. Here's hoping other huge companies follow suit... ;)

Saturday, November 26, 2005


As an eBay employee, I need to over editorialize my responses to some of the things I read (or not respond at all)... that being said I wholeheartedly agree with Jeff Pulver's comments on Skype.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Eh tu Amazon?

Just saw the last episode of HBO's Rome yesterday. For anyone who hasn't seen it, Rome is simply the best show on TV (with Prison Break a close second). Last night they ended the season with Julius Caeser getting stabbed a few hundred times and Brutus' mom telling Octavian's (the next Caeser's) mom that she would hunt her down and torture her slowly... Check out Julius' entry in Wikipedia. Yow. And I thought all the drama between Yahoo, Google, MSN and eBay was bad.

Keeping up the Roman conquest analogy, looks like the concepts behind Web 2.0 are winning hearts and minds. Next to fall was Amazon which just introduced their ProductWiki, joining Yahoo's Shoposphere and Flickr, and Microsoft's Max (and yes Google's Base :P). You could argue that user-generated content is at the heart of eBay (listings, transactions, feedback, etc). That said, the recently launched Reviews&Guides is a great new indicator of eBay's ongoing commitment to our community and the base principles behind Web 2.0. More to come, stay tuned :)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Now that's what I call a great loyalty program.

A funny news item about Match.com. To summarize, some guy named Matt is suing Match for fraud, claming the company sends out attractive employees on dates with users whose subscriptions are about to expire. Apparently Matt's 'relationship was going nowhere' and he got the woman to confess she was hired by Match... According to the lawsuit, the company was hoping Matt would tell his friends about the attractive woman he met through the service. Mmk. I can't imagine this is true. lol. Puts eBay Anything Points to shame... :(

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Google Base basics

Alright. I've had enough questions related to Google Base lately that I wanted to add my two cents beyond the post below. The 'secret sauce' in Google Base is tied very closely to the folksonomy they enable to their listings. In my humble opinion, Froogle failed because it was a centralized attempt to organize a massive amount of information into a product search experience. Froogle managers essentially have to define for each product out of millions (or worse yet for each keyword out of billions) what attributes are usually used by buyers for narrowing their product search. So for an Ipod that might mean 1) color 2) memory 3) type (mini, regular, nano) but for a Kodak digital camera those attributes would be completely different. The easy universal attributes Froogle has applied currently are things like 'price' and maybe 'brand', but ultimately something that basic is set up to fail. Buyers need more help than that...

Google Base takes a completely different take on this. Users set their own taxonomy of attributes and categories. As more users add content to Google Base, the overall number of attributes users select for any one keyword or product increases as well. All Google Base needs to do then is apply a bell curve to measure the most popular attributes or categories selected for said keyword search term and tada! you have a universal attribute structure which constantly adjusts and improves based on what the community of users generate. At first this process is a complete mess, and is hugely open to abuse by spammers, since the 'folksonomy' doesn't have sufficient number of attributes inputted (hence my search result for 'recipes' turning up jobs and job type as attributes below - this is already gone btw replaced by the more appropriate cuisine and ingredients). But as 1 million listings turns into 100 million (so long as its not all spam) the system essentially improves itself, and the most popular attributes become the most appropriate for display to buyers. Google rids itself of the work required to select attributes product by product since the user community does the work for them... Go spam go!

Update: Here's a story about the lagging Froogle. Just in case you didn't believe me ;)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I guess the analysts were right...

First there was Overstock. Then Google Base. Now Auctionbang has arrived! Apparently "The Way Auctions Should Be!" (their slogan, not mine) is 32 categories with 0 products listed... The categories are copied verbatim from eBay with the exception of Boats. Guess Boats didn't fit the company's strategic vision ;)

Update: Apologies to Auctionbang, they now have 5 products listed...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Google Base (beta) launches?

Well. You can say at least one thing about Google_Base. It can only get better from here. Google Base invokes user-generated attributes and categories (ala Flickr) to submit content to Google's database (with potential inclusion in the main Google search index). The registration flow for Google Accounts (required to list) is very light, however users need to opt-out of Personalized search which tracks users' keyword selections for targeting ads.

There seems to be a significant problem accessing Google Base at the moment (I get dumped to an error page or onto the Google homepage). The one time I was able to log in, the user flow for listing products was a curious mix of being very basic while non-intuitive at the same time. The site also kept stating I couldn't add more than 200 items even tho I hadn't added any.

Searching Google Base is reminiscent of Froogle, which translates to a fairly poor product search experience (no surprise given both are beta). As users continue to add their own attributes and categories, I'm assuming this should improve the data structure to make navigation easier and more intuitive. That said, when I ran a search for 'recipes' s0me of the primary options given for refining my search were 'jobs', 'job type' and 'employer'. Mmk. Well... gotta start somewhere I guess. Seems like Google is having similar issues with Google_Analytics.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Free and clear... eBay not Sprint.

Adam Trachtenberg beat me to the punch on announcing our Free_eBay_API_Calls. Hate to repeat myself, BUT there's honestly nothing even close in terms of the breadth of the web service platform eBay offers to developers (now free!) focusing on product search, transactions and order fulfillment. Our developer network includes over 20,000 developers, 1,600 applications live to site and 20% of eBay.com's 200MM+ quarterly listings generated by 3rd party applications using eBay's APIs for finding, selling, buying, client-desktop, ASP, wireless, interactive TV and affiliate applications (affiliate tools are by far the minority of apps LTS). Since winning the 2005 Codie for Corporate Achievement, Infoworld just announced eBay's Developer Program as the winner for Top IT Project in their Retail category Top_IT_Projects as well... Alright, fine, I'll stop.

Oh, by the way (as opposed to our brethren), we also welcome commercial applications... (couldnt' stop myself)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Wireless 2.0

One of platforms I help manage is eBay_Wireless (the only wireless application which lets you actually bid and buy something via phone. Check it out on your phone - wap.ebay.com). While there's not much I can say about our future plans specifically, what I can say is that the potential for Wireless in general is huge. And no, I'm not basing this on the level of VC investment going into Wireless these days... that's completely effect not cause.

With the huge penetration of wireless phones and services worldwide (multiples larger than PC usage), the carriers, handset manufacturers and wireless solutions providers know they are sitting on something explosive. In the past, handsets were highly constrained in terms of the wireless OS and end-applications available for users (the reason RIM even exists to some degree). Having seen what's coming on the software side of things, the separation between PC and wireless phone is about to close completely. With the launch of EVDO and other super-fast wireless data access points, aggressive moves from Microsoft for both wireless OS and the 'mobilization' of MS Exchange (great article on this by Bill_Burnham), and the increasing concentration of wireless OS in general (Symbian/iMode/CE), ubiquitous/fast wireless Internet access (and in turn availability and usage of Web 2.0 applications on the handset) will become the norm within less than five years. This is all coming together quickly folks -- driving in part the fast emergence and focus on Web 2.0 applications and the increasing focus of so many major wireless and Internet players in the space. Wireless 2.0 is the here and now.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Patently dumb...

Can someone explain why the Patent office would approve a patent for the ability to submit consumer reviews online? Amazon_patent. I'm going to submit a patent for submitting patents for obvious things. Better yet, I'll patent the process of submitting negative reviews of the Patent office... given the general sentiment of the Patent office these days that's guaranteed riches.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Web 2.0 basics

I've referenced the concept of Web 2.0 a bunch in this blog. For anyone who isn't fully aware what Web 2.o is, here's a great primer from Tim O'Reilly What_Is_Web_2.0? Two sentences from Tim's article really boils it down well:

"The Web 2.0 lesson: leverage customer-self service and algorithmic data management to reach out the entire web, to the edges and not just the center, to the long tail and not just the head. Network effects from user contributions are the key to market dominance in the Web 2.0 era."

In my humble opinion, there's a real danger for almost every online content and commerce site that doesn't start integrating the above concepts to their services. Community-generated content and self-service underpins a virtuous cycle of increasing interaction and activity on a content or commerce site that establishes a meaningful social network. Consider that every additional community member at that point (having contributed content to a site easily accessible cross-platform to other potential members) becomes an evangelist and marketer for said content/commerce site to their own personal network, acting as a multiplier for viral user acquisition. Again, this isn't social networking for the sake of social networking. Instead it's a means of tying users/buyers into the fabric of a site which establishes greater trust to the content or service offered by the underlying application and driving increased activity as a result.

Umm that was a mouthful :(

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Venture Capitalist... you've been Googed!

Check out this hilarious blog the_vcsqueeze. Actually it's fairly dry reading until you get to the Google part...

"'Bring us your startups early," said Google's speaker at the Startup School. They're quite explicit about it: they like to acquire startups at just the point where they would do a Series A round.'"

It's fascinating when even VCs potentially have to worry about the impact Google has on their industry. The brunt of the article speaks to how Google's acquisitions of Series A round start-ups in effect gets around the 'premium' that would have to be paid for a successful VC-funded company in later rounds. Honestly, I don't buy the argument at all since corporate entities (with few notable exceptions) don't easily stomach the risk involved in investing in unproven technology, and worse, dampen the innovation they purchase due to integration to 'process' (which is at the foundation of larger companies). Better to wait for the winner in a market and then take on integration risk on the hopes the technology has reached some threshold of market acceptance. Still, its a funny thought regardless...


I might be slow on the draw, but for those of you who haven't seen www.yelp.com, go check it out. It's a nice blend of Citysearch, ePinions and Myspace all wrapped into one. Yelp is part of a growing surge of community-enabled services taking old online business models and converting them to the new paradigm of 'web 2.0' - whatever that means ;)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Shrinkage at Google

Funny (and unverified) story about folks stealing the free food at Google (Google_lunch) Finally something Google can give away for free which is truly not evil...

Friday, November 04, 2005

Note to Friendster - I'm married with children.

Interesting post on the fate of Friendster. If you compare Friendster (92) to MySpace (14) or TheFacebook (143) on Alexa, it appears that Friendster's traffic is slumping significantly compared to the stunning growth of its competitors. Their site states there are 19MM profiles on the Friendster network, which seems significant, but MySpace (with 28MM users) has nearly 20-30x the traffic.

I've always had a hard time understanding the value proposition of Friendster outside of a network dating site. I'm actually one of their 19MM profiles. I joined 2 years ago, looked at my friend's network and then never went back. Now I get a daily spam email from Friendster. Woot! Perhaps social networking for the sake of social networking alone isn't enough to drive interest and repeat usage. MySpace and TheFacebook succeeded by targeting specific demographic niches and interests (bands and college fraternization respectively) and building community-driven content that appealed to its users. Ultimately, both sites enabled dating and social networking (ala Friendster), but with an underlying purpose that was more focused than either. Looks like content really is king...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pooh Bear

Here's a shot of my 5-month old in a Pooh bear/bee outfit. Yes, he got his good looks from his mom... :)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Viral Guerrilla Community Created End-consumer Marketing (or VGCCEcM for short :))

I'm a huge fan of the community-enabled business model (Skype, MySpace, Facebook, etc). That said, here's an interesting article on MySpace from the good folks at Techdirt. According to the article MySpace will generate $30-40MM in revenues, with approximately 28MM users. That equates to $1-1.30 per user per year (that's actually fairly similar to Skype currently with $60MM revs/55MM users). Doesn't leave much room for marketing for user acquisition (maybe offer a whole can of Coke per user) and emphasizes how critical guerrilla and viral marketing is to the business model.

Great example of this is the SimplyFired site (Alexa rank 55K) that manages to generate some great community-created content for our friends at SimplyHired (6,813). Consumer marketing has always been a massive cost for companies (Google Ads anyone? How about a SuperBowl commercial?). What better way to acquire target customers then by engaging them as a community via a niche wiki/blog, have them build content and then invite their personal network to read the content they just created? (and oh by the way, here's a related service for you to use/buy) Developer focused on consumers should take advantage of VGCCEcM! (btw, do a search on "lockness monster" on www.msn.com and look at the bottom of the first result page. VGCCEcM works! ;))
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