eBay, Amazon.com and other large transaction portals are going the Microsoft route and enabling independent programmers to create tools that can enhance their offerings. The Windows franchise has grown because Microsoft built the operating system and core office product but millions (thousands?) of value added products have been built on top of these pillars – the OS and the office application suites.
Amazon chief technology officer Al Vermeulen
Information Week writes Amazon.com, Inc. remains as protective as ever of the technology that powers its Web site. “We don’t go into detail about what our underlying infrastructure looks like,” says chief technology officer Al Vermeulen. At the same time, though, Amazon is throwing open its site to outside programmers, providing access to databases and features that have taken years and something approaching $1 billion to develop over nearly a decade. “We’re going to go full bore in exposing all of our platform,” Vermeulen says enthusiastically.
Oddcast Inc. is typical of the kind of company that’s helping to make eBay a hub of development. The 5-year-old software company develops interactive characters that act as Web-site guides for clients such as Coca-Cola, Intel, and McDonald’s. Last month, it started selling an online capability called “publish to eBay,” so someone can license Oddcast’s VHost SitePal software and design an online character that’s published directly to that person’s eBay auction site. “Never in a million years would this have been developed by eBay for its customers,” Oddcast CTO Gil Sideman says.
Oddcast’s software lets companies talk to would-be customers through their animated characters. Using a recording mechanism or text-to-speech software, an eBay retailer can have an avatar pitch customers about what promotions are available. Oddcast hosts the software that runs the animation on its servers. So far, a few dozen companies have signed up for the service.
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