eBay amps-up developer program with SOAP APIs

eBay is adding SOAP APIs and Java integration tools to its line of software development kits. The San Jose, Calif.-based operator of one of the world's largest online marketplaces said the additions to its SDK family -- expected in Q2 2004 -- are designed to broaden the existing XML and .NET integration capabilities the tools currently provide, and will give developers additional ways to connect to the eBay platform.

Taken together with Amazon's work to create developer APIs, it appears there are some serious new players in the developer world, and XML is at the heart of their efforts.

The so-called eBay platform is a trading community where tens of millions of people can buy and sell practically anything on a daily basis (no food or body parts, please). "When you say you have a software platform, you're sort of putting a stake in the ground and saying, 'We're going to do this in a way that is going to facilitate third-party innovation,'" explained Jeffrey McManus, eBay's senior manager of developer relations. "It's a different platform play from say Microsoft Windows or Java in the sense that some of the services you would expect to get would be a little bit different. In the end, I think it's less about providing an API and more about providing a business opportunity."

eBay is serious about supporting third-party software developers who want to integrate their applications with its online trading environment, McManus told Programmers Report. The company actually launched its developer program in 2000, but kept a low profile as it worked out the kinks.

"We wanted to have all of the pieces in place," McManus said. "We're at the point now where we have everything in place so that we know the developers are going to get good code examples, good documentation and just generally have a good experience. We have a whole team that is in charge of giving direct assistance to developers, and we have a great developer tech support group."

Developers who join the eBay Developers Program can access the company's SDK offerings and other technical resources. According to eBay, membership in the program is expanding fast, from less than 200 a year ago to more than 4,000 today.

The support for SOAP and Java is part of an ongoing effort to reach beyond a core program membership that is made up largely of .NET developers who use a tool called the eBay SDK for Windows, which McManus described as "basically a set of .NET binaries that wrap the XML API and allow you to do what you do with the API without having to deal with the plumbing."

Added McManus: "Early in the program's history we got a lot of [Visual Basic] developers, so it was a natural progression for us to pursue a deeper integration with .NET. But we're going to do Java, SOAP and anything our developers tell us they want."

One of the early participants in the program, SuperPawn, a franchised reseller of "pre-owned" merchandise, developed an application called AuctionMonitor that links its point-of-sale system to eBay. AuctionMonitor connects the company's Point-Of-Acquisition software, called Pre-Owned Retail Internet Management Analysis (Prima), with eBay to create a tightly coupled e-commerce engine for auctions.

TestMart, a sales, marketing and online strategy consultant for the test and measurement industry, joined the program in 2003. The company recently launched a listing tool and a suite of selling services for test and measurement equipment sellers on eBay. The application is designed to allow eBay sellers to include detailed specifications and photos extracted from TestMart's database of test equipment information to item listings on eBay.

More information on eBay's developer program is available at

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].