Friday, June 01, 2007

eBay goes for StumbleUpon

Intriguing: eBay have announced that they've acquired StumbleUpon (stumbleupon.com, natch) - a "webpage recommendation" type community thing. The announcement says that SU will continue to operate pretty independently for the time being, but some speculation over why ebay acquired them in the first place is in order. Skype, I can understand, but SU seems a little... removed from ebay.

Maybe it's just the way I use ebay - if I suddenly think of something I need, I'll check ebay for it, but that's about it usually. If I have some randomly spare time, I might browse a category, but won't usually buy anything when doing so. The main selling point of ebay for me is the ability to compare many prices quickly, to get an idea of what I can expect to pay (in comparison to the shops). What I choose to buy isn't something necessarily dictated by what I read on the web - choosing to buy something isn't a particular social experience.

Is ebay looking to use the SU model of recommendation/commenting to drive looking for/recommending ebay items then? I can't see how this would work, especially considering the kind of demographic that use SU (interested in new, and otherwise hard-to-find resources). Or is it about capturing networks of interest - channels of communication along which "similar products" can spread? How would that work? Perhaps there are advantages to a less "explicit" linkage (where explicit means you actively define your contacts a la MySpace, Tribe.net, etc., and the opposite is "recommended users" a la last.fm, say) that make it easier to "push" marketing (as people don't feel their "private" space is being invaded so much as they haven't invested as much time setting it up).

It'll be interesting to see, anyway. I never really thought of ebay as a "community" site - does the idea have legs, or are they just trying to jump on the bandwagon?

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