EBay releases beta of desktop application for buyers

Desktop application makes shopping easier with new types of alerts and a browsing history feature

EBay on Monday opened a beta program for a desktop application that makes shopping on the auction Web site easier, with new types of alerts and a browsing history feature.

Anyone interested in the beta can sign up here for Project San Dimas, which was announced at the eBay Developers Conference in Boston. eBay developers named San Dimas after the hometown of Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted Logan, the main characters of "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure."

"It's an eBay desktop application that includes all the major functionality of the eBay buying experience, search, bidding, watch list, My eBay features and so on," says Alan Lewis, San Dimas project manager. "We started from scratch and wanted to bring a brand new eBay experience using the Adobe platform."

The product makes searching and adding items to watch lists faster, and has a new alert function telling users when they have been outbid -- even when they aren't using the application -- and allowing them to bid again without opening the application back up again. The application also includes checkout and feedback features so users can avoid going onto the eBay Web site.

Attendees of Monday's conference were given preferred access allowing them to participate in the beta, but availability to the general public is limited. Sign-up requests are answered with an automated response saying: "We expect to start sending out invitations to the beta program within a few months."

eBay plans a selling feature for San Dimas geared toward casual sellers, but the feature is not included in the initial beta release.

Application developers are encouraged to create applications of their own that work like San Dimas, though.

"San Dimas uses eBay Web Services to communicate with eBay," the company states in an FAQ about the project. "Web services are a mechanism by which client applications communicate with a server via a standard network protocol to exchange data via a well-understood format like XML. In fact, there is nothing preventing other companies or developers from creating applications like San Dimas, using the Web services just like we do. You can learn more about this at the eBay Developers Program website."

eBay this morning also announced Shopping Web Services, which has APIs making searching on eBay as much as 16 times faster, and lets developers easily build buying applications, says Max Mancini, senior director of product management. A new eBay bidding API lets qualified developers enable bidding on eBay from anywhere, he says.

eBay is also launching new JavaScript and Flash development centers making it easier for developers to access the eBay Web services platform, he said.

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Jon Brodkin

Network World

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