Web 2.0: Define 'Disruptive' - InformationWeek

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9/16/2008
05:49 PM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Web 2.0: Define 'Disruptive'

When you sit down to talk with someone who has the title "Senior Director, Platform and Disruptive Innovation," the first question that comes to mind is: OK, what's "disruptive"? That was, indeed, the first thing that popped out of my mouth when I spoke with Max Mancini of eBay.

When you sit down to talk with someone who has the title "Senior Director, Platform and Disruptive Innovation," the first question that comes to mind is: OK, what's "disruptive"? That was, indeed, the first thing that popped out of my mouth when I spoke with Max Mancini of eBay.

Max defined "disruptive" as tech trends that could upset the business. "The first is the impact of social networks -- Facebook, MySpace -- on the trust model in commerce," he said, and given that eBay has wrestled (not always successfully) with the problem of trust models for a good long time now, they obviously have a vested interest in seeing if any of these new methodologies for connecting and getting to know people affects any of that. (Their own tentative experiments in this area (Facebook apps, mainly) haven't yielded much fruit, but that could simply be due to the fact that eBay and Facebook users might not have much overlap.) Another thing they're paying attention to is the way rich media applications, the desktop and web services are all fusing heavily; their own eBay Desktop product is an example of this.

From where I stood, open source definitely classified as disruptive, so how's eBay planning to leverage that, if at all? Max mainly talked about Project Echo, eBay's upcoming developer initiative to allow third-party applications to be integrated directly into eBay's Selling Manager program. Rather than create something from the ground up for the sake of building the third-party widgets, the idea is to use existing open source solutions for that -- to allow, for instance, folks like Salesforce.com or SugarCRM (random examples) to write add-ons for Selling Manager.

Aside from open APIs to their services, their next big experiment in this space is still very amorphous but intriguing. Right now, their core stack -- built on Java and Tomcat -- is available to third-party developers, but Max mentioned that there might be an open source version of it released in the future. The stack in question is essentially eBay's rendering engine, which plugs into a data source (MySQL, for instance) and lets you build HTML programmatically.

There's no talk yet of what the licensing scheme for an open source version of this stack would be like, but the big draw here is being able to give people hands-on access to some of the tech used to allow eBay to scale out as heavily as it does. That's something worth seeing released to the world.

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