The SDForum Emerging Tech SIG meeting last night on "eBay on Disruptive Technologies" did not turn our to be quite what what I expected, however it did contain a couple of interesting insights. Firstly Adam Trachtenberg, senior manager of Platform Evangelism, gave an overview of some of the things that eBay is doing to explore and protect itself from disruptive innovation. He described what they were doing with the wonderful word: "explorimenting".
An enthusiastic audience asked Adam about various of the companies like Skype, StubHub and Rent.com that eBay had recently bought and what their plans for them were. Unfortunately these groups are not in Adams bag and he could not say anything about them. However he did talk about a couple of initiatives that were in his bailiwick.
One of them is a social commerce effort that will allow people to share their eBay watch lists with their friends. The most interesting thing about this project is that it is built on Facebook. Last year Facebook turned their social networking site into a platform that allowed third party applications. As Adam explained, the Facebook platform makes it possible, even easy, for eBay to create social networking experiments like this. Recently there has been a lot of noise about the Facebook platform, and this experiment is another signpost as to how important it will become. The eBay Facebook application will launch in a couple of weeks.
Alan Lewis, a Technical Evangelist with the eBay Developers Program showed us the other eBay initiative a rich internet client application for eBay buyers called San Dimas. The idea is to explore giving eBay buyers a better user experience and also showcase the eBay API. The most interesting thing about this application is that it is written using the new Adobe Apollo/AIR/Flex platform. Adobe AIR is the next generation of Flash player, acquired when Adobe bought Macromedia in 2005. While AIR is still in beta, we have been hearing a lot about it recently, and I expect it to have a big impact when it launches. San Dimas has been in a private beta. We were the first people to see a public demonstration of it.