September 12, 2005
More on Skype & eBay
I mentioned the buyout earlier and everyone is yammering on about it this morning. And rightly so, it's big news. That's no small figure and Skype has quite a buzz. Tom doesn't get it but it makes perfect sense to me. Ross points out this bit which I've heard before, he says:
"Pierre Omidyar once explained to me that one of the smartest things he did when starting eBay was to not constrain communication around his market -- by publishing email addresses... Back when I was running a B2B exchange, this was considered a contrarian move. After all, it let buyers and sellers circumvent your transaction fees in some cases. But letting go of control fosters liquidity. Especially when you couldn't possibly structure communications to fit all transactions."
Of course that was crazytalk at one point but now we all know letting customers & users talk to each other is in fact a very good thing. The other deal that should be remembered was when they bought Paypal. People used to just send money, but that took too long and some sellers wanted payments to be made online, but people were skeptical of giving out payment info that way. People trusted eBay but didn't know if they could trust the seller, or whatever other 3rd party payment company they were asking for. So, when eBay bought PayPal then suddenly users could trust them because they already trusted eBay.
So where does voice fit into this? Two places I think. The people who are selling things on ebay who aren't online all the time, and the people who are doing eBay sales full time as a business.
The folks who are offline are a huge chunk. They are the people who used to sell to thrift stores, antique fairs and places like that. They've been told about eBay and reaching a larger audience and are now using that to sell their stuff. The problem is some of these people check their e-mail once a week, so if a buy has a question it might not be answered, or even received, until after the auction ends. These sellers know this is a problem but really, they aren't around computers so checking e-mail isn't an option. But getting a phone call is. Starting to make sense yet?
Additionally the people who are selling things full time will now have a more direct link to their customers, and eBay will get a piece of that conversation. And with SkypeOut and SkypeIn there's no need for both parties to be running Skype, The part time seller can get a call on their home phone, or the business can route all calls through one desktop. Both cases saving the callers money, and making eBay some in the process. It's good stuff.
Of course there's still detractors, Dan Gillmor is questioning the privacy aspects of it but I think he's nit picking. As much as we'd all like 100% security of our privacy we don't have it, for anything. Companies who promise not to give our info out get caught selling it, or have a disgruntled employee who sneaks it out the back door. There's a new hole and patch for that hole every other week. Our own government lies to us about how much they are snooping on us. Google knows everything there is to know about us from what websites we look at, to who we e-mail, to where we live and what our house looks like. I think expecting something like Skype to be 100% secure and private is a pipedream. It should be like PGP, pretty good, enough to cover most problems but taken with a grain of salt. If you have something to discuss that is that crucial, perhaps VOIP isn't the best option to do that in the first place.
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