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November 10, 2006

Glimpse into eBay's future from the Web 2.0 conference

Davinci2 The buzz-generating Web 2.0 conference is wrapping up today and yesterday, Eric Billingsley who runs the fledgling eBay Research Labs (ERL) gave a presentation.

ERL Background
Before we go into details, I wanted to make sure everyone's on the same page about ERL.  According to this interview, the ERL is about 18 months old, and was previously called the Advanced Technology Group.  Eric leads it up.  The groups goal is to take pieces of eBay and innovate on them.  Again from this interview it sounds like there are 5-10 folks in this group (actually a good sign, the smaller the better for super-smart engineers).  Counter to this interview Eric says there are now 30 people in the group at Web 2.0, so the group must be growing rapidly.

Eric's Web2 Talk
Ok, so yesterday Eric gave a presentation at Web2 and demonstrated a new improved version of the eBay "finding experience" (what the rest of the world calls the search engine).  At ERL they call this new feature "best match".  In this system a new relevancy algorithm looks at search and click popularity (and I hope conversions) and orders things that way vs. the old-school eBay "ending first" algo.

There are several impressions of it:
1. Red Herring basically trashes eBay for not being very innovative.
2. Blogger Michael Starnes has some good notes from the talk.  He adds some color to BestMatch and more interestingly talks about Social Commerce.  This has previously been discussed as something code-named DaVinci in other interviews with Eric.

Here's Michael's description:

Pulls up a cluster diagram, probably Flash like a music search site I've seen. Each node is near other related nodes. Related purchases develops into an intricate web. Trading cards are related to Star Wars, Star Trek, Comic books.

Most of these kinds of presentations are hush-hush, but fortunately someone was able to get some pics.  Here's DaVinci - remember you saw it here first!

I personally view these as very positive developments.  eBay has long been stagnant and not really innovated outside of acquisitions. It's great to see them investing into the core site and trying to solve some of the bigger issues (like finding/search) while thinking about how to take things to the next level DaVinci seems interesting.


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