Ebay gets wiki, adds Skype

Las Vegas (NV) - Ebay announced several new features that are designed to create an improved communication among Ebay sellers and buyers. Member blogs and a Wiki application will bring more user-created content to the auction site, while Skype IM and VoIP functionality is making a first, cautious step into Ebay listings.

Ebay Wiki? Not everyone will be able to put a meaning behind a new service, which Ebay hopes will "empower" its community, and improve the way its users collaborate and share experiences. But if know Wikipedia, then you pretty much know what Ebay's Wiki idea is about.

"Our goal is to facilitate commerce and community activity, enabling our members to trade with one another successfully on the Ebay site," said Rachel Makool, senior director of community development for eBay. "The Ebay Wiki and Member Blogs provide powerful new avenues for our members to share with one another and tap into the collective intelligence of the eBay community."

Essentially, Ebay is trying to capitalize on a trend in which more and users engage in creating, sharing and discussing various types of content. Ebay Wiki will allow anyone to "easily publish, contribute to, and refine articles about tips and tricks, best practices, and other topics of interest to the greater eBay community," Ebay said in a statement. The company hopes that its Wiki app will become "becomes a valuable reference guide as more articles are published" since any entry will be "based on facts and real users' experiences."

Member blogs are complementing Ebay Wiki by providing journal-like publications in a dedicated space.

Ebay also is beginning to take direct advantage of its Skype acquisition, which cost the company at least $2.6 billion. A "Skype Me" button will make its first appearance on 19 June in 14 categories across the auction site. Sellers will be able to add the button in their "Ask a seller a question" section through an option in their "Sell your Item" form. If the sellers opt to add this feature, buyers will be able to communicate with sellers using voice, text chat or both. The feature is provided at no cost to Ebay users.

"Skype represents a tremendous opportunity for our sellers to connect even more closely with their buyers," said Bill Cobb, president of Ebay North America. "We believe that Skype will enhance the way that people communicate and trade on Ebay, especially in high involvement and high price categories."

Ebay says that it conducted user surveys to figure out how to best integrate Skype into its auction listings. While it remains to be seen how the mass of Ebay users will adapt Skype in auctions, analysts have issued concerns about the added value of chat capability: Mitch Mitchell, an analyst with A.T. Kearney told TG daily in an earlier conversation that sellers "may be reluctant adopting" a VoIP service: "The seller basically has to be available on the buyer's terms. That circumstance adds a hassle factor that does not exist today."

The Skype Me button will be first available in the categories Automotive GPS devices, Manufacturing and metalworking, Camera and photo lenses and filters, Beds, Wired networking routers, NBA basketball cards, Skype devices, Silver coins, VoIP/Internet telephony, Lost in Space collectibles, Diamond solitaire rings, Radio control toys, Real estate and Cars and trucks.