A Newbie's Guide To The eBay Developers Conference

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Even if you are not interested in developing anything of your own, doesn't it ever occur to you to wonder just how it all works? What programming magic underlies our daily point-and-click ease of use?

The eBay Developers Conference is the place to go to find the answers to those questions -- and to meet the folks who are making it all happen, now and in the future. For an up-close-and-personal overview of that information, you can go to the eBay Developers Conference (DevCon) link @ http://www.ebay.com/devcon.

Or you can follow along with me as I take a newbie's tour of the 2008 event, live in Chicago from June 16-18 at the brand-new McCormick West Convention Center.

First up on Monday's agenda was a keynote address featuring a demonstration of Project Echo and other new web services for the eBay Platform by Max Mancini, Senior Director of Platform and Disruptive Innovation at eBay. Rajiv Dutta, President of eBay Marketplaces, kicked off the event by sharing eBay's platform plans and explaining the importance of that platform to the eBay Marketplace business. Finally, Adam Gross -- Vice President of Platform and Developer Marketing at Salesforce.com -- gave his thoughts on the importance of platform-as-a-service to the e-commerce industry.

But the big news of this conference was Mancini's showcasing of new capabilities and access available to developers, especially Project Echo, which represents the next generation of the eBay platform.

From its very beginning, eBay was created as an open business platform. Since then, eBay's global marketplace has enabled hundreds of thousands of sellers to flourish and to build their businesses as a part of the eBay community. 
In 2000, eBay took the next step in opening up the eBay platform by introducing a comprehensive set of Web Services. eBay Web Services have enabled thousands of third-party developers to offer innovative solutions and products to eBay buyers and sellers via the developers' access to data available from the eBay platform. These third-party applications traditionally have been offered to eBay users from outside of the eBay site.

Now, Project Echo takes eBay’s platform to the next level by allowing third-party developers to embed applications directly within eBay.com. Developers will be able to integrate applications with Selling Manager and Selling Manager Pro, eBay’s most popular seller tools, allowing sellers to manage their selling activities from a single location in My eBay. 
Project Echo creates a business platform for developers on eBay.com, allowing developers to focus on the delivery of quality products and services to the eBay community. The eBay community will benefit from a streamlined and trusted site experience, enabling business sellers to have access to advanced selling tools that meet their specific needs. 

In keeping with eBay’s efforts to provide the best experience on eBay.com, applications will be required to meet site standards for trusted selling experiences. Once an application has been approved, developers will be able to publish their application within Selling Manager, and sellers will be able to discover their application and subscribe to their tool.

The Echo Promotion Engine will show eBay business sellers who use Selling Manager/Selling Manager Pro the Echo applications that are most relevant to their needs via a real-time algorithm that uses context-sensitive user profile data. For example, you might find yourself greeted by a screen that says, "Congratulations! You have sold 10,000 items. Ready to improve even more? Add terapeak 5.0…".

In addition, the Echo Application Catalog will feature a list of registered Echo applications available within Selling Manager/Selling Manager Pro. Business sellers will be able to search applications by keyword, browse by applications category, and view applications by popularity rank. For example, you could compare the popularity of terapeak 5.0 with that of HammerTap's DeepAnalysis. Users can then subscribe to applications from within the Echo Application Catalog. These applications will appear in the left-hand navigation column of Selling Manager/Selling Manager Pro under the heading of My Tools.

Project Echo is currently an alpha pilot program and will be available for wider developer participation and eBay seller adoption as a beta release opening sometime during the first quarter of 2009. In the meantime, you can find out more about Project Echo @ http://www.developer.ebay.com/echo/ and/or via the Project Echo brief @ http://www.developer.ebay.com/echo/project-echo-brief.pdf.  More information and commentary can be found in the eBay Ink blog by Richard Brewer-Hays @ http://www.ebayinkblog.com/2008/06/16/3rd-party-app-development-now-open-on-ebays-selling-manager/

The Tuesday afternoon keynote address continued addressing the issues that dominated the conference: the importance of open platforms for improving user experiences in online business; boosting customer loyalty and engagement; and helping entrepreneurial developers monetize their applications by taking advantage of the leading e-commerce API (Application Programming Interface) platforms on the web -- namely, eBay, PayPal, Shopping.com, ProStores, and Skype.

Founding member and Chief Evangelist for Mozilla Corporation Mike Shaver talked about the benefits of building products and businesses that scale for an open web. In other words, build it and they will come -- but while you're at it, give yourself the ability to pick the rest of the world's brains.

Next, CEO of Zappos.com Tony Hsieh presented his vision of a service-oriented culture for online business -- i.e., build it and they will come; but make them feel welcome, and they will stay. As any fan of the site "where shoe addicts go for proper treatment" knows, Zappos' customer service is second to none.

Last but not least, President of eBay Marketplaces Rajiv Dutta and President/CEO of eBay Inc. John Donahoe discussed their thoughts on the importance of the eBay developer community and the future of the global eBay marketplace. In short, it's all about building a better eBay.

There are four tracks to pursue at the 2008 eBay Developers Conference: Track 1 is Business and Entrepreneurship; Track 2 is Affiliates and Buyer Tools; Track 3 is Seller, Merchant, and Payment; Track 4 is Web 2.0 and Web Development. Classes are further subdivided into Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, All, and Business Focus. Also featured are a PayPal Certified Developer Boot Camp and free PayPal Certification Testing. PDFs of all conference sessions can be found @ http://pages.ebay.com/devcon/conferencetracks/.

But now it's time to take a break from serious sessions and partake of the PayPal Beer Bash. It's being held in the eBay Developers Lounge, where among other amenities you can find a variety of vintage arcade games on which to get your ya-ya's out. Meanwhile, you can find out more about the eBay Developers Program @ http://www.developer.ebay.com.

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