09 April 2005

XML feeds for E-bay: Which platform can I use to monitor products?

Short answer

RSS Auction once provided this capability. Clicking on the current link has a redirect to BidBot. It's not clear how to get an RSS feed from Bid Bot.

Given the automated nature of the online bidding in the final seconds, it does not appear as though the current XML search tools and aggregators would effectively compete. By the time a user manually loaded a single feed in a prospective search, the auction bot could have done trillions of calculations and bids.

Purpose

This background note hopes to provide a user's perspective as you plan for the 21-22 Jun 2005 Ebay Developers meeting and [a] share a user's perspective of the existing auction-XML-search tools; and [b] briefly speculate on the potential enterprise and merger activity related to supporting XML feeds in auctions.

This information is not considered accurate nor predictive in nature. It is simply intended to give one user's perspective of XML feeds and online auctions. In all likelihood there are many gaps in this note and this may serve as one benchmark for the effectiveness and ease of finding information related to online auctions, XML-compatible auction feeds, and online search platforms dedicated to supporting auctions.

Discussion

This note explores the potential changes in XML feed monitoring of online bids. We go into a review of the current auction monitoring tools, and briefly show how the current search engines do not adequately support XML feeds. Then we review the potential business models and enterprise solutions that might combine XML feeds, auction-focused XML searchplatforms, and the unfolding development efforts at Ebay.

We summarize with a brief outline of potential mergers and business models that might fully support buyer and seller XML feeds into a single user-friendly platform.

Overview

Although there are systems that can generate XML feeds for auctions, it is not clear how these feed generators integrate with either the aggregators or the existing online XML search platforms.

The primary problem with XML auction feeds is that they are difficult to find; and the existing XML search platforms are not specifically designed to support the bid-ask relationship in online bidding using XML feeds. Rather the auction tools rely on bots to place the bids, not on feeds to communicate information.

However, it appears as though there are undercurrents of development effort and Merger and Acquisition activity related to creating a formal platform to support XML-compatible auctions. These efforts relate to creating the code to transfer data between buyers and sellers on XML feeds; and creating a robust and stable platform that allows buyers and sellers to meet.

Current bid-bots focus on what exists, and do not appear to provide prospective searches; but do not well show case an XML feed capability, RSS subscription request, nor is there a ready method to subscribe to feeds. One would think that if the bid-bot was well integrated with XML feeds and prospective searches, that they would have an XML-compatible newsletter. They do not, it is just an e-mail newsletter.

User experiences in finding Auction feeds

Notice the frustration some have with both finding content and products, and those who are trying to showcase their information. Also, note that the substantial portion of the EBay technical questions have absolutely nothing to do with XML feeds, or searching for Ebay products with prospective search engines.

Public discussion in re Ebay and searches is limited to the benign plain-vanilla search with a web-search, not very much discussion the XML-feed search. Rather, the existing tools to create XML feeds for auctions are little known and not well integrated into existing search platforms or aggregators.

Auction Aggregators

PingOMatic makes publication easy for content-providers. It remains to be understood whether a similar FeedMesh-like auto-notify system will support Ebay buyers and sellers. Fark and Pluck do support Ebay XML feeds. However, if we go to Pluck, there is no easy or obvious way to find specific feeds for specific Ebay products; nor does Pluck obviously state or show how to create a subscription feed for a prospective search, nor does it show how to tag a feed that may match the consumer's buying objectives.

When adding the shopping feeds to Pluck, there is no obvious Ebay feed. Users are given three feeds, without any obvious way to tailor or focus the search:
BensBargains.net

CNET Shopper - Most Popular Products

mySimon shopping blog


It is likely that a platform like mySimon would be ideal for the proposed package. It is currently a product-search platform, but does not have any XML feed support.

Potential business models

Just as AskJeeves and Bloglines was acquired without little notice, it is possible that platform like mySimon could be an acquisition target by vendors hoping to consolidate XML feeds with the existing product-showcase-platforms like EBay. It is likely that Become.com hopes to one day fill this gap.

It remains to be seen which mix would best integrate both XML-feed search and product transactions. This is to say, that for this system to work, a consolidator would most likely acquire a search platform like Technorati or PubSub and use the unfolding Ebay API information to integrate this search-platform with a product-showcaser-platform like mySimon.

An alternative would be to acquire a closely held and little known firm like SurfCorp then merge this with the product-platform to directly compete with EBay, and eventually Technorati and PubSub. A third approach would be an enterprise approach> in that a platform would create the mechanism to quickly integrate buyers and sellers with a click-through approach.

A fourth approach could be the CNET approach, in that it offers products and already has an aggregator. The next step would be to create an embedded XML-search platform within the aggregator that accommodated both product placement [XML feed publishing] and buyer requests [XML Feed searchers].

Ideally for business users, an XML search on EBay would be a simple sign-up and request, not lines and lines of coding. Alternatively, a news-platform like oodle could be the mechanism or agent which aggregates, indexes, and allows others to search the product feeds.

Curiously oodle highlights its e-mail alerts and makes no mention of XML feeds on it's opening page. Further, there is a sign that there are moves to integrate searches, technology, and content in oodle's planned search tool, which would allow searchers to place a search tool on their site. Perhaps A9 hopes to be the E-bay feed platform of choice.

Development efforts

Surprisingly, as early as Dec 2004 there was a debate whether XML feeds should or should not be used to notify users. This partially suggests that no formal decision has been made, and that the lack of public discussion and interest is failing to focus the development efforts and capital allocation decision.

Recall that it was in Nov 2004 where RSS feeds were mentioned as a means to integrate buyers and sellers; only a few weeks ago, Ebay released the API for it's site.

That means it highly likely that there's inadequate information publicly available to develop an open-source platform that would support both XML feed-searches/publication of content. This conclusion is supported in that the official release of the product will not be for another two months in June05. So it's highly unlikely the public has enough information to know to request an integrated platform that would both search and publicize products on XML feeds; nor would they know enough to request a FeedMesh-like support system for both the sellers [XML feed publishers] and consumers [XML feed searchers].

Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that despite the lack of public discussion and visible platform, some XML platforms are ramping up to support this integration. Indeed, on 7 April 2005, there was a conference to review these likely development efforts. It is also likely that the 21-22 Jun 2005 Ebay developer's conference could be a catalyst for a likely confluence of these forces: PingOMatic, FeedMesh, Technorati, PubSub, PayPal and the Ebay XML feed publishers-searchers.

Let us recall how much time it takes to develop a platform like this. PubSub and Geometric Group took 12 months behind closed doors before releasing the Monitor110 to the public. It is likely that the developers working on such an integrated platform do not have the necessary information to complete all the planning--the codes, standards, and baseline data has yet to be created, much less applied.

Recall, it's been almost 5 months since the passing mention of RSS feeds and Ebay, and I have not heard of a specific platform dedicated to:

  • Allowing buyers to search for products and get an XML feed to load to their aggregator;

  • Allow sellers to promote their product with an XML feed; or

  • Allow the wider public to search for products with prospective searches, save those searches, and monitor the traffic and product releases on Ebay.

    Who should pay? Like a transaction cost on NYSE, the returns are measured in terms of volumes of sales. There could be a fraction of each sale, like a toll-bridge, that goes toward funding the initial development effort.

    Accessible, familiar Ebay-XML-feed search-notify-publish platform

    I've looked into the area and am not clear that there is a central mechanism to integrate buyers, sellers, products, searches, and XML feeds into a single platform. It's likely under development, but it's not out there ready to use for either beta testing or wider public use by either consumers [XML-feed searchers] or sellers [XML feed content providers].

    PubSub doesn't appear to have a specific Ebay monitoring capability. "Our competitors are CNN News Alerts and eBay auction alerts," as Ismail elaborates. [From: Search the Future. Not the past. Hindustan Times by Deepak Mankar
    November 27, 2004]

    MSDN has an API to search for Ebay products. There is an Ebay development center with various success stories. Development continues in the area of GetSearchResults. Yet typing in "XML Search" into the Ebay developers forum produces only a few hits

    EVDB offers a means to quickly notify and publish upcoming events, offering feeds.

    User questions

    Where do I got to create a prospective search for Ebay auctions?

    Where can I save these ebay auction XML feeds?

    What mechanism can I use to monitor potential future auctions, and auctions as they are entering active bidding?

    Would a private use of Ebay be considered a commercial use of an XML search platform like Technorati or PubSub?

    User requirements

    I'd like the ability to have a simple place to go to load up a request for a product. It could be a book or a product on EBay.

    I'd like the tool to be something I am already using and familiar with. Ideally this XML search tool would be an added feature to the existing XML search platforms like Technorati, PubSub, MSN, Yahoo or Google.

    I'd like to be able to integrate this XML search feed into my aggregator so that I can keep on top of future product release on Ebay, monitor new book releases in the future, and be able to stay on top of the release so that I can get a product at the price I think is reasonable.

    I'd like the ability to cap the maximum price I'm willing to pay so that when the product exceeds that price I'm taken off the notify list. Think of the NYSE bid ask system.

    I want this notification system to both be searchable, something I can updated mid-event, exportable to another platform like EVDB, and I want to be able to download the information real time to either my laptop, wireless phone, iPod, or have the images of the product show up in my wifi-connected handheld camera with product features, links clickable from the image.

    I want the feed to include clickable images that let me click on the product so that I can zoom into the image, get additional information about aspects of a specific feature of that product.

    Summary

    An integrated platform dedicated to auction feeds appears to be nothing more than a parlour game. However, if the goal were to simply observe the auction bidding, and not actually place any bids, such a platform might be useful.

    Yet, without bids and a method of capturing transaction percentages, such a model would likely not be cost effective. Yet, it remains to be seen whether an integrated search-publish platform could provide superior alternative services than either the existing auction-XML feeds or the automated auction bots currently provide.
  • Short answer

    RSS Auction once provided this capability. Clicking on the current link has a redirect to BidBot. It's not clear how to get an RSS feed from Bid Bot.

    Given the automated nature of the online bidding in the final seconds, it does not appear as though the current XML search tools and aggregators would effectively compete. By the time a user manually loaded a single feed in a prospective search, the auction bot could have done trillions of calculations and bids.

    Purpose

    This background note hopes to provide a user's perspective as you plan for the 21-22 Jun 2005 Ebay Developers meeting and [a] share a user's perspective of the existing auction-XML-search tools; and [b] briefly speculate on the potential enterprise and merger activity related to supporting XML feeds in auctions.

    This information is not considered accurate nor predictive in nature. It is simply intended to give one user's perspective of XML feeds and online auctions. In all likelihood there are many gaps in this note and this may serve as one benchmark for the effectiveness and ease of finding information related to online auctions, XML-compatible auction feeds, and online search platforms dedicated to supporting auctions.

    Discussion

    This note explores the potential changes in XML feed monitoring of online bids. We go into a review of the current auction monitoring tools, and briefly show how the current search engines do not adequately support XML feeds. Then we review the potential business models and enterprise solutions that might combine XML feeds, auction-focused XML searchplatforms, and the unfolding development efforts at Ebay.

    We summarize with a brief outline of potential mergers and business models that might fully support buyer and seller XML feeds into a single user-friendly platform.

    Overview

    Although there are systems that can generate XML feeds for auctions, it is not clear how these feed generators integrate with either the aggregators or the existing online XML search platforms.

    The primary problem with XML auction feeds is that they are difficult to find; and the existing XML search platforms are not specifically designed to support the bid-ask relationship in online bidding using XML feeds. Rather the auction tools rely on bots to place the bids, not on feeds to communicate information.

    However, it appears as though there are undercurrents of development effort and Merger and Acquisition activity related to creating a formal platform to support XML-compatible auctions. These efforts relate to creating the code to transfer data between buyers and sellers on XML feeds; and creating a robust and stable platform that allows buyers and sellers to meet.

    Current bid-bots focus on what exists, and do not appear to provide prospective searches; but do not well show case an XML feed capability, RSS subscription request, nor is there a ready method to subscribe to feeds. One would think that if the bid-bot was well integrated with XML feeds and prospective searches, that they would have an XML-compatible newsletter. They do not, it is just an e-mail newsletter.

    User experiences in finding Auction feeds

    Notice the frustration some have with both finding content and products, and those who are trying to showcase their information. Also, note that the substantial portion of the EBay technical questions have absolutely nothing to do with XML feeds, or searching for Ebay products with prospective search engines.

    Public discussion in re Ebay and searches is limited to the benign plain-vanilla search with a web-search, not very much discussion the XML-feed search. Rather, the existing tools to create XML feeds for auctions are little known and not well integrated into existing search platforms or aggregators.

    Auction Aggregators

    PingOMatic makes publication easy for content-providers. It remains to be understood whether a similar FeedMesh-like auto-notify system will support Ebay buyers and sellers. Fark and Pluck do support Ebay XML feeds. However, if we go to Pluck, there is no easy or obvious way to find specific feeds for specific Ebay products; nor does Pluck obviously state or show how to create a subscription feed for a prospective search, nor does it show how to tag a feed that may match the consumer's buying objectives.

    When adding the shopping feeds to Pluck, there is no obvious Ebay feed. Users are given three feeds, without any obvious way to tailor or focus the search:
    BensBargains.net

    CNET Shopper - Most Popular Products

    mySimon shopping blog


    It is likely that a platform like mySimon would be ideal for the proposed package. It is currently a product-search platform, but does not have any XML feed support.

    Potential business models

    Just as AskJeeves and Bloglines was acquired without little notice, it is possible that platform like mySimon could be an acquisition target by vendors hoping to consolidate XML feeds with the existing product-showcase-platforms like EBay. It is likely that Become.com hopes to one day fill this gap.

    It remains to be seen which mix would best integrate both XML-feed search and product transactions. This is to say, that for this system to work, a consolidator would most likely acquire a search platform like Technorati or PubSub and use the unfolding Ebay API information to integrate this search-platform with a product-showcaser-platform like mySimon.

    An alternative would be to acquire a closely held and little known firm like SurfCorp then merge this with the product-platform to directly compete with EBay, and eventually Technorati and PubSub. A third approach would be an enterprise approach> in that a platform would create the mechanism to quickly integrate buyers and sellers with a click-through approach.

    A fourth approach could be the CNET approach, in that it offers products and already has an aggregator. The next step would be to create an embedded XML-search platform within the aggregator that accommodated both product placement [XML feed publishing] and buyer requests [XML Feed searchers].

    Ideally for business users, an XML search on EBay would be a simple sign-up and request, not lines and lines of coding. Alternatively, a news-platform like oodle could be the mechanism or agent which aggregates, indexes, and allows others to search the product feeds.

    Curiously oodle highlights its e-mail alerts and makes no mention of XML feeds on it's opening page. Further, there is a sign that there are moves to integrate searches, technology, and content in oodle's planned search tool, which would allow searchers to place a search tool on their site. Perhaps A9 hopes to be the E-bay feed platform of choice.

    Development efforts

    Surprisingly, as early as Dec 2004 there was a debate whether XML feeds should or should not be used to notify users. This partially suggests that no formal decision has been made, and that the lack of public discussion and interest is failing to focus the development efforts and capital allocation decision.

    Recall that it was in Nov 2004 where RSS feeds were mentioned as a means to integrate buyers and sellers; only a few weeks ago, Ebay released the API for it's site.

    That means it highly likely that there's inadequate information publicly available to develop an open-source platform that would support both XML feed-searches/publication of content. This conclusion is supported in that the official release of the product will not be for another two months in June05. So it's highly unlikely the public has enough information to know to request an integrated platform that would both search and publicize products on XML feeds; nor would they know enough to request a FeedMesh-like support system for both the sellers [XML feed publishers] and consumers [XML feed searchers].

    Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that despite the lack of public discussion and visible platform, some XML platforms are ramping up to support this integration. Indeed, on 7 April 2005, there was a conference to review these likely development efforts. It is also likely that the 21-22 Jun 2005 Ebay developer's conference could be a catalyst for a likely confluence of these forces: PingOMatic, FeedMesh, Technorati, PubSub, PayPal and the Ebay XML feed publishers-searchers.

    Let us recall how much time it takes to develop a platform like this. PubSub and Geometric Group took 12 months behind closed doors before releasing the Monitor110 to the public. It is likely that the developers working on such an integrated platform do not have the necessary information to complete all the planning--the codes, standards, and baseline data has yet to be created, much less applied.

    Recall, it's been almost 5 months since the passing mention of RSS feeds and Ebay, and I have not heard of a specific platform dedicated to:

  • Allowing buyers to search for products and get an XML feed to load to their aggregator;

  • Allow sellers to promote their product with an XML feed; or

  • Allow the wider public to search for products with prospective searches, save those searches, and monitor the traffic and product releases on Ebay.

    Who should pay? Like a transaction cost on NYSE, the returns are measured in terms of volumes of sales. There could be a fraction of each sale, like a toll-bridge, that goes toward funding the initial development effort.

    Accessible, familiar Ebay-XML-feed search-notify-publish platform

    I've looked into the area and am not clear that there is a central mechanism to integrate buyers, sellers, products, searches, and XML feeds into a single platform. It's likely under development, but it's not out there ready to use for either beta testing or wider public use by either consumers [XML-feed searchers] or sellers [XML feed content providers].

    PubSub doesn't appear to have a specific Ebay monitoring capability. "Our competitors are CNN News Alerts and eBay auction alerts," as Ismail elaborates. [From: Search the Future. Not the past. Hindustan Times by Deepak Mankar
    November 27, 2004]

    MSDN has an API to search for Ebay products. There is an Ebay development center with various success stories. Development continues in the area of GetSearchResults. Yet typing in "XML Search" into the Ebay developers forum produces only a few hits

    EVDB offers a means to quickly notify and publish upcoming events, offering feeds.

    User questions

    Where do I got to create a prospective search for Ebay auctions?

    Where can I save these ebay auction XML feeds?

    What mechanism can I use to monitor potential future auctions, and auctions as they are entering active bidding?

    Would a private use of Ebay be considered a commercial use of an XML search platform like Technorati or PubSub?

    User requirements

    I'd like the ability to have a simple place to go to load up a request for a product. It could be a book or a product on EBay.

    I'd like the tool to be something I am already using and familiar with. Ideally this XML search tool would be an added feature to the existing XML search platforms like Technorati, PubSub, MSN, Yahoo or Google.

    I'd like to be able to integrate this XML search feed into my aggregator so that I can keep on top of future product release on Ebay, monitor new book releases in the future, and be able to stay on top of the release so that I can get a product at the price I think is reasonable.

    I'd like the ability to cap the maximum price I'm willing to pay so that when the product exceeds that price I'm taken off the notify list. Think of the NYSE bid ask system.

    I want this notification system to both be searchable, something I can updated mid-event, exportable to another platform like EVDB, and I want to be able to download the information real time to either my laptop, wireless phone, iPod, or have the images of the product show up in my wifi-connected handheld camera with product features, links clickable from the image.

    I want the feed to include clickable images that let me click on the product so that I can zoom into the image, get additional information about aspects of a specific feature of that product.

    Summary

    An integrated platform dedicated to auction feeds appears to be nothing more than a parlour game. However, if the goal were to simply observe the auction bidding, and not actually place any bids, such a platform might be useful.

    Yet, without bids and a method of capturing transaction percentages, such a model would likely not be cost effective. Yet, it remains to be seen whether an integrated search-publish platform could provide superior alternative services than either the existing auction-XML feeds or the automated auction bots currently provide.
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