Category Archives: interweb

eBay goes Google

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that eBay has been experimenting with different entry pages. This morning, I saw the most radical test yet — a simple, Google-style front page that puts the focus directly on searching.

Obviously, one has to wonder why they’re pursuing this thread. Do people perceive eBay as too complex? Do most visitors come to eBay to browse, or to locate something specific?
Currently eBay’s existing home page is the only place visitors ever see items that isn’t somehow included in their search results, and advertisers presumably pay pretty dearly for that placement. However, because the user hasn’t yet indicated interest in anything, the display is completely untargeted, and most likely results in very low rates of clickthrough.
Over the past several years, eBay has moved far beyond its garage sale roots and become a destination for buying goods of all sorts, new and used. My guess is that eBay, as part of its continual hunt for alternative sources of revenue, is considering implementing a Google-style targeted advertising infrastructure based on search keywords. For advertisers, this has the obvious benefit of hawking their wares to visitors with a demonstrated interested in their goods; and for eBay, a very scalable and pervasive way to extract advertising revenue from all levels of eBay merchants, rather than just the rare few able to afford the splash screen.
Once this is in place, the home page — busy, and irrelevant to most users — can be reduced to its most important, primary task: search.

New Version

The new version of QuickBase is out as of very early Saturday morning. The list of major updates is here, along with a page describing the developer-oriented features we’ve released over the last six months.
We’re pretty excited about this release, and we think a number of the features are really going to make a big difference in the everyday usage of the product. Over the next few days, I’ll be describing some of the new features here in a little more detail. Stay tuned.

Making Sense of Safari

After Apple’s announcement Tuesday of Safari a number of us at QuickBase were puzzling over the announcement. We read the reviews by Ben, Mark and others, but still couldn’t quite understand the strategic imperative that led Apple to develop its own web browser. Were they so desperate to be independent from Microsoft? What was going to be so compelling about Safari that would induce web developers to support yet another browser with a minority share on a minority platform?
It was a brief post by Brent Simmons at Ranchero that finally made Safari make sense. Apple needed an real, OS-level HTML rendering engine, and none of the other makers of major browsers have had any incentive to implement one for the mac.
Here are some of the places Safari will likely be used:
Mail.app – one of the most frustrating aspects of switching back to Mac OS X from Windows earlier this year is the inability of Mac mail clients to correctly render HTML email. Most of them (mail.app and Entourage) make a halfway-decent attempt at it, but as soon as you forward or do anything with the message, the HTML disintegrates.
Although the whole point of Sherlock 3 is to provide a polished way to find and access structured data on the web, it is also badly in need of an embedded browser, usually to display the results of searches for things like eBay auction items, dictionary entries, etc.
Third-party apps – Probably the most important. One of the main obstacles preventing QuickBooks for the Mac from achieving parity with QuickBooks for Windows is the fact that large portions or the interface of the Windows version were implemented using the OS-level version of Internet Explorer as a rendering engine. You can also tell from Brent’s post that he’s excited about using the Safari rendering engine in NetNewsWire.
So go Apple. The ironic thing about this argument is that it bolsters Microsoft’s longstanding and controversial contention that the browser & HTML engine belongs as part of the OS…

A plug

In the past year, the best $15 I spent was for a service that shouldn’t have to exist — Fastmail.fm. For your $15, you get lifetime access to Fastmail’s authenticated SMTP server. This way, you can use your laptop to send email from any network, and circumvent annoying policies by certain DSL providers I won’t name.