eBay XML API & Web Services [low priority]

Subscribe to eBay XML API & Web Services [low priority] 4 post(s), 3 voice(s)

Avatar (SF) Doug Va... 1 post

This is most definitely low priority, and tangentially related to JBidWatcher, but I wanted to ask it anyway.

I haven’t had a chance to comb over the code (I have pulled it), but I wanted to ask how about how you ‘call’ eBay functionality. From reading other posts in here, I gather that you are mimicking a Browser doing GETs and POSTs. Is that a fair assessment?

And now the point of my post: Do you know if the Web Services are available to an Open Source project like this one? From what I can gather from eBay’s developer web site, it’s not, really. You have to pay $100 to access the production API as an individual, and their ‘keys’ would prevent you from distributing the application unless each user did the same (paid $100 to eBay).

Anyway, I figure you have some experience in dealing with eBay programmatically and I thought you might have some knowledge on the subject. Your insight is appreciated.

As a side note, my wife and I have used JBW and we both like it. Excellent work!

Avatar (SF) Harry S... 1 post

i was wondering the same thing, whether jbidwatcher used an ebay api (i’m not familiar with whether/which apis exist for ebay). if not, i’m curious as to why. is ebay really that stupid about api access as to charge money? i’d understand not wanting to enable competitors to scavange the site, but that restriction should be handled in a terms of use policy. i can’t imagine any reason other than greed that ebay would try to charge people for the privelage of helping ebay make more money.

the native ebay web interface is slow, ugly, inefficient and un-intuitive. i’d definitely consider it unusable if i were ever doing large volumes of ebay transactions. so i’d imagine these 3rd party interfaces to ebay help keep the damn site in existence. (end of rant)

Avatar Morgan Schweers Administrator 1,204 post(s)

Yes, JBidwatcher can be considered a specialized form of browser, that just operates on the ‘EWW’, the eBay Wide Web. :) It has ‘foreknowledge’ of the structure of eBay’s site, from my own experience using it, and parses the HTML, looking for just the core content of the pages.

There is a Web Services API, but it is not available for open source developers. The issues you described are exactly right. Every JBidwatcher user would have to go through the process of becoming a licensed eBay developer, whether they can code or not. This is absurd to me. Their conceptual model cannot comprehend someone producing a software package where the source is available, and at no cost. (The donations are very nice, but not required at all, and certainly wouldn’t cover JBidwatcher’s API usage.)

I have more experience than you might think at dealing with eBay programmatically; I did it professionally for a scrappy payments company, both scraping their pages similar to the way JBidwatcher does, and using their API later on (when they exposed it to us freely). I no longer work there, but it was fascinating and a heck of a lot of fun to put my JBidwatcher experience to work in a major, heavily-used way.

I’ve made the argument repeatedly in the past for a more comfortable license for open source developers. I don’t believe they will provide it for a long time, though. I’d love for a simple thing to add onto the URL to get the raw XML used to generate the page, even.

Thank you very much for the words of praise, as well! I’m a back-end systems developer in my ‘day job’, and it’s nice to be able to put together a user-facing GUI tool that people like… It stretches my skills enjoyably. :)

Best of luck with your auctions!

— Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

Avatar Morgan Schweers Administrator 1,204 post(s)

Well, eBay has their reasons for it. Their API machines are a separate block of boxes, dedicated to API access. This means that there aren’t as many as their ‘live’ servers, and so load is a potential issue.

Further, they are DEATHLY afraid of people aggregating auction sites and disintermediating them from being the site that everyone goes to.

Specifically, if one site ‘AuctionFoo’ aggregates eBay and Yahoo! auctions together, and a substantial number of users start using AuctionFoo to do their auction searches, then there’s less (approaching zero) friction for sellers to move to Yahoo!, for instance.

The network effects of eBay’s buyer and seller population creates the ‘friction’ that keeps sellers and buyers there. This is the core of their business model, and how they make money. Given that, anything that threatens to reduce that friction is violently opposed, sued, or bought. :)

In general, I agree that open access to an API is in eBay’s best interests, but their management (while definitely competent, and good at what they do) is very much NOT comfortable with that concept. Unlike many other companies, eBay internally works almost exclusively with proprietary tools and software, and understands that world far more than the open source world. Because of this, when designing their API for public usage, their mental model of what software would use it is (1) a centralized commercial web site, or (2) commercial software.

Large volumes of eBay transactions are usually handled from the seller perspective by a commercial application which allows bulk auction creation, for instance. These bulk tools are definitely commercial, and they pay eBay a pretty penny for API access.

In the end, I don’t attribute to greed, what I think can adequately be explained by a worldview that doesn’t really accept open source software as a legitimate alternative; if others are going to make money on their site, they believe they are entitled to charge for it. It’s when people are producing software that interacts with their site, but not charging money for it, that they get all confused.

— Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!