You might think of eBay as a place to buy and sell things, or you might think of it as an ever-changing database of content. Really, it's both. You never know when that killer item is going to be listed. But dealing with the dynamic nature of eBay can be a challenge, so it makes sense to use tools to help you list items on eBay, search eBay listings, monitor items you're bidding on, and much more. You can build your own tools using eBay web services, which exposes all of this functionality.
You've been able to access the eBay platform via web services since 2001. Recently, we removed all of the fees for using these APIs. To celebrate, eBay and O'Reilly are sponsoring a coding contest for applications built on eBay web services: the eBay Developer Challenge 2006. This contest gives us a chance to say thanks to our developers, and to encourage the development of great tools that the eBay community will love. Contest winners will be announced in March 2006 at O'Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference.
The eBay developer community uses a rich variety of platforms and languages. We make it easy for them to access eBay by offering a variety of APIs: a SOAP API, an XML API (XML
POST over HTTPS), an SDK for Java, an SDK for .NET, and a REST API. The goal was to enable most of the functionality available on the eBay website through the web services interfaces. Think about interesting, useful, or even unusual ways of incorporating your favorite parts of eBay in an application. Maybe one of these examples will inspire you to create a contest winner:
Mashups: Developers everywhere are going mashup crazy, especially with mapping applications. Developer Tuan Le created a Google Maps mashup with eBay Real Estate. Another developer integrated eBay with MSN Virtual Earth, and yet another uses a custom mapping engine. These sites make it easy to see what items are near you--which is just what I need when shopping for items that are difficult to ship, such as cars. Maps are cool, but there are many, many other services that you could integrate with eBay web services to create something new and innovative. What else might you mash up in your contest entry?
Gadgets, Widgets, Internet Connected Components, Whatever You Call Them: Apple, Konfabulator (now owned by Yahoo), Microsoft, and Google all are promoting the idea of mini-applications for the desktop that provide specialized functionality, such as flight monitoring, currency conversion, and note taking. These applications are great for integrating eBay functionality. By monitoring eBay items outside of the browser, you can save time. Ed Rayne built an eBay search widget for Apple Dashboard using the eBay REST API. It's quite slick. Along the same lines, you could create a toolbar plugin, such as one for Firefox, or an application for a non-PC device, such as a cell phone or DVR.
Tools for eBay Power Users: Whether you are a buyer or a seller, if you use eBay frequently, there are bound to be certain things that you wish could be made more efficient. There are products that can help automate and improve the eBay selling process, and even ones that integrate with back-end tools such as accounting packages and CRM systems. Many of these types of tools can be found using the eBay Solutions Finder, but there is always room for other great ideas.
An area that is largely untouched is tools that help buyers work more efficiently with eBay. One example I would love to see is a tool that lets me see the My eBay Watch List in a single page, because on the eBay website you have to scroll through multiple pages if you have lots of items in your Watch List. This is a big pain, because when I have more than 25 items in my Watch List, I have to skip through multiple pages to see all of the items.
When we planned our contest, it was very important that we encouraged all types of development: individuals and teams, open and closed source code, and both commercial and non-commercial products. When you enter, choose the category that best fits your development style. Begin by picking between the Individual and the Team categories.
The Individual category is for developers who write an application by themselves, either open source or closed source, and either commercial or non-commercial. The winner of this category receives $5,000, plus a paid trip to the O'Reilly Emerging Tech Conference 2006, including flights, hotel, and a full pass. Not only will you have the chance to mingle with technology luminaries, but you will also demo your application at the eBay booth at the show. The runner-up receives $1,000, as well as a paid trip to ETech. Other prizes in this category include iPod nanos and sets of O'Reilly books.
The Team category is for teams of up to four developers, who enter a project that the team leader submits to the eBay Community Codebase. The project must be open source, and teams will be judged not only on the quality of the product they create, but on how effectively they collaborate and build the product using the tools provided by the Codebase. The winning team members will each receive an Xbox 360 and a paid trip to ETech to demo the application. Members of the two runners up teams will receive iPod nanos and O'Reilly book packages. You can read more about the prizes for both categories on the contest page.
The contest runs through the end of January 2006, so there's still time to enter. To learn more, go to the contest website.
Good luck, and happy coding!
Alan Lewis is a technical evangelist with the eBay Developers Program
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