eBay Desktop Turns 1 Million; Steve Jobs likes "Meat and Potatoes" eBay iPhone App

Richard Brewer-Hay

Earlier this week, the eBay Desktop application was downloaded for the 1,000,000th time… not bad for staying fairly under the radar since it was first launched back in February. According to Alan Lewis over on the eBay Desktop Blog, this is more than double what was expected at this point of the year. Congratulations to Alan and the team on this milestone!

eBay DesktopAlan and I had managed to sit down over coffee last week to talk about the success of the Desktop app, the launch of the eBay app on iPhones and just about work here at eBay in general. It was a pretty enlightening discussion in which we shared wish lists for future revs of the Desktop app and I found out exactly what Steve Jobs thought of the eBay app for iPhone.

eBay Desktop
According to Alan, the majority of initial users of the Desktop application are those folks that are ahead of the technology curve, willing to try new things. He also pointed out that the interaction on Desktop vs. eBay.com is philosophically different with the former being more personal and the latter being more open and social. In a follow-up discussion, Alan indicated that the in-person usability study went quite well last week so I’d like to get more info on that too.

We both agreed that the seller functionality is needed on the Desktop application to propel it into more of a mainstream status and it appears that this functionality is written into the product timeline (no hints on dates here though I’m afraid). On the flip-side, one of my personal favorite features of eBay Desktop is “Search Feeds” or simply “Feeds”. This feature allows you to access your favorite searches or create new ones, and view them as “feeds” just as you would in an RSS reader. You can also see if an item is new and delete items you’re not interested in. As the Desktop application gains more traction this feature will need to be addressed on ebay.com too because users will come to expect it.

eBay iPhone Application
I had written about the eBay iPhone application back at the beginning of June and now that it’s live, I’d like to have a sit down with Ken Sun and Alan about the future plans of the app (including international plans). I did ask Alan what Steve Jobs thought of the application when Ken first demoed it to him in his office and his first impression was that he called it a real “meat and potatoes application” – something that actually brings value to the iPhone customer and not just a flashy feature. I guess when the app was first featured on the homepage it received 3 times the normal number of click-thrus and enjoyed the highest percentage of click-thrus for that slot.

On working at eBay
Alan has been with eBay for 4 and a half years now and we talked about the changes he has seen over the past few years and what his observations are overall. Sure, we talked about all the great things about working here at eBay and why we come to work every day but I wanted to talk about ways in which we could do better as a company.

He stressed that he feels communication has been flawed at times and that we need to do a better job communicating directly with all of our constituencies. Something we’ve talked a lot about here on Ink. He also talked about the shift in priorities. He contends that from 1999 to 2004, the company’s biggest priority was keeping up with the growth of the site and most decisions were made with scalability in mind. As a result, site usability ultimately suffered somewhat. Since that time, all new feature and product enhancements have been focused squarely on the user experience. Right now, we’re focusing on the buyer experience because this was a more neglected area during the time of great scalability… having said that, he also indicated that he didn’t feel like it is a buyer vs. seller approach (a lot of the time eBay users are both) but that every decision made is targeted at the overall user experience.

All in all, a very interesting discussion and one that I want to continue with him in the near future. Looping Ken Sun in too so we can chat more about the iPhone App.