Ebay and VoIP (Skype)...
Today's Independent newspaper (UK) has an article on the Ebay purchase of Skype. The journalist refers to these two businesses as clubs. People download Skype in order to talk to each other for free, especially over long distances (internationally). This doesn't constitute a club, unless, as is common these days, the word has been given a new meaning, like "community" (yesterday's buzzword for loosely associated people doing the same thing). I drink green tea. Does that put me in the "green tea club" or "green tea community"?
The problem with these descriptions is the tendency to add meaning where there isn't any and so send us all off on another meaningless pursuit of abstract business ideas like "club value". I can imagine it now; the VC retort "yes, but what's the club value?"
The skype user base is, as far as online businesses go, a large one. Clearly, Ebay has acquired a potentially large and lucrative extension to its core auctioning business. Now, if I were Ebay, I would be thinking about how can I improve my core business, as well as extend it. Adding voice connectivity - and presence - to the Ebay auctioning process seems like a good idea. Clearly, Ebay users need to communicate with each other often, for a variety of reasons. Adding a real-time element, for free, has a lot of potential for enhancing the process. One could even conceive of new auctioning processes involving live presence in an auction room and bidding by voice. Ebay probably already has a good idea that introducing real-time user interaction via voice has a positive impact on auctioning. Buying the technology enables them to integrate it into their core business, as opposed to being an incidental component. In the long term, I also think that this will enable them to move successfully into the mobile arena, which will also have a positive impact on revenue by allowing bidders to actively participate in the closing of an auction.
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