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eBay Publishes Its Source Code, Encourages Open-Source Development

eBay is giving the members of its developer programs access to the source code for various eBay and PayPal tools and sample applications. The code is being released today on the newly launched eBay Community Codebase Web site, which the company created to serve as an online forum for open-source developer collaboration.

"Historically, we've always been an advocate of open-source software development," says Greg Isaacs, director of eBay’s developers program, "but we’ve never said here’s a home for you to actually work together."

Access to the Web site and the source code is free to all eBay Developers Program and PayPal Developer Network members. And to encourage the creation and distribution of open source eBay apps, the company also unveiled a new pricing structure that increases the number of free API calls individual tier program members have access to from 1,500 per month to 10,000 per month. And the company has waived all certification fees for Individual tier members.

The company also announced that it is open sourcing its various software development kits. “The kits have always been distributed free to developers in the programs,” Isaacs says. “Now we’re saying, here’s the source code. We’re opening up this environment to the best developers in the world.”

The eBay platform is a trading community where tens of millions of users can get together to buy and sell practically anything on a daily basis. To help promote open-source development for this platform, the site will include some featured projects, Isaacs told ProgrammingTrends. "The idea is to sprinkle some seeds," he says.

Initial projects available in the eBay Community Codebase include:

  • Firefox My eBay Toolbar built by eBay
  • TiVo/eBay sample application built by eBay
  • Five payment scripts for integrating PayPal
  • Eclipse Plug-in built by eBay
  • PayPal Payment Data Analysis using Excel

The eBay Codebase site will be hosted by Collabnet, a provider of distributed development solutions. The company is signed on to provide a collaborative development environment designed to allow developers to work together from geographically distributed areas and throughout application development lifecycles, the company says. Collabnet's CTO, Brian Behlendorf, is a founder of the Apache open-source project.

The operator of the world's largest online marketplace made the announcements at its fourth-annual eBay Developer Conference, under way this week at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose in conjunction with its tenth annual user conference, eBay Live.

eBay launched its developer program in 2000 and published its initial set of APIs, but did little to publicize the program for the first year or two. But for the past two years, the company has been aggressively promoting the program, which seeks to encourage third-party innovations built on Web services standards, such as the Simple Object Access Protocol.

Last year, conference organizers let the show’s developer component stand as a separate, concurrent event for the first time. It drew an estimated 500 attendees looking for advice and training on developing for the eBay platform. This year’s event drew about a hundred more attendees than last year. The day-long, pre-conference developer workshop was sold out.

Historically, most of the applications developed for the eBay platform have been created with the seller in mind, including broad-based selling apps and what Isaacs calls category applications focused on specific markets, such as autos or ticket sales. But third-party developers are also turning out a range of buying applications. Taken together, third-party applications currently account for 20 percent of eBay’s listings, Isaacs says.

eBay intends to take a fairly hands-off approach to activities on the new Web site, Isaacs says. But that doesn't mean that eBay's in-house developers won't be participating. "If there are things that make sense for us to collaborate on more aggressively, we will certainly do that," Isaacs says.

More information is available on the eBay Community Codebase Web site at: www.codebase.ebay.com.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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