eBay Inc. will enter the Web advertising market with eBay AdContext, a move that catapults the Web auction powerhouse into direct competition with online ad kingpin
Sellers on eBay will use AdContext to run contextual ads and promote auctions on linked Websites. The system works similar to Google AdSense, which recognizes keywords on Web pages and serves up ads linking to sites with relevant content.
eBay executives mentioned the plan at its developers conference in Las Vegas, Nev. last weekend and released more details yesterday.
Mpire Corp. uses most of the auction site's Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to integrate with PayPal, Skype, search, active listings and market research data. The developer, which provides software and services to help people sell on eBay, has yet to add eBay AdContext to the list.
That will likely change, says Dave Cotter, Mpire co-founder and CEO turned chief marketing officer, after recently handing the reins to former Expedia Corporate Travel president Matt Hulett.
Calling the news interesting, Cotter views AdContext as a method for eBay sellers to gain additional exposure for listings. He said many sellers want to know how to get more traffic, and this should help them accomplish the task.
Buyers on Mpire.com would search for a keyword, such as iPod. The search engine will return historical data, active listings, and on the right-hand side, advertisements for iPods and related products. When users click on the eBay ad, they're rerouted to the eBay site. "The move is strategic for eBay," Cotter said, "It tightens their relationship with Yahoo and further separates them from Google."
The eBay Developers Program also introduced four new APIs: eBay Express Search; eBay Express Shopping Cart; eBay Product Info, which includes eBay Reviews and Guides; and Contextual Keywords beta.
eBay Express Search, which launched in April and becomes available to the general public within the next few weeks, will have an API that lets developers integrate search for new items only. Early next year, eBay will release the eBay Express Shipping Cart API to let developers connect buyers with a one-click purchase and shopping cart function.
The eBay Product Info API promises to give buyers easy access to eBay product catalogs. Type "Harry Potter" into the search box, for example, to pull up information on all the search-related items for sale across the auction site.
When the Contextual Keywords beta API launches it will allow eBay developers to visually show related photographs with their posts. "If I write a blog about Chinese statues or Porsches, I may want to show a photograph or where Chinese statues or Porsches are available on eBay," said Greg Isaacs, director of the eBay Developers Program. "Developers would submit a URL for a Web page to eBay. We figure out what content is on the page and deliver it to eBay developer through the API."
For developers who want to integrate these functions, eBay provides documentation with instructions on building code, technical support, and software development kits and tools. "The APIs are meant to give buyers more options," said Marshall Smith, senior software engineer at ChannelAdvisor Corp., which provides software and services to help people sell on eBay.
This year's conference was the first to combine developers from eBay, PayPal, ProStores, Shopping.com and Skype.
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