E-Commerce Hubs and APIs

Information Week writes: “For Amazon and eBay to grow, these hubs of E-commerce need to open their Web sites to a community of developers who will give their customers the tools they demand.”

Amazon and eBay, in turning themselves into software-development hubs, are once again expanding the possibilities–and increasing the pressure–for any company that wants to be a center of E-commerce. As Amazon and eBay popularize the use of programmable Web sites, other E-businesses might find they, too, want to open their Web sites up to a community of developers–be they independents, or programmers from customers or business partners who want to add their own innovations to a site. “There’s no reason we can’t have thousands of developer communities for thousands of different Web sites, even on a small scale,” says Jeff Barr, Amazon’s technical program manager. Other businesses will find the hard part isn’t exposing the inner workings of a site as Web services but establishing a business model that works with it. “There has to be real sound financial return for doing these things over the long term,” he says.

Google Inc., the search-engine powerhouse that’s preparing for an initial public stock offering, publishes on its Web site an API that lets users write applications that incorporate Google’s search engine. The company doesn’t have formal developer programs like eBay and Amazon do, but it’s a start.

To make this hub-of-development concept work, Amazon and eBay needed to learn how to inspire clever programmers to work on their platforms. They’re succeeding in part because they have the kind of user numbers that interest programmers. But they’re also presenting programmers with a new challenge in the world of Web services: tools and technology for integrating Web platforms. The companies are fast movers when it comes to exposing the capabilities of their platforms at a time when many companies still are cautious about Web-services technology. They’re showing that opening up some of their technology vaults can spur the creation of other software apps that expand their market reach.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.