eBays announcement meshed with one of the key themes outlined during the opening day of the conference: That major Web players such as eBay, Amazon.com Inc. and Google Inc. increasingly are becoming platforms themselves as they provide connections into their services and databases.
"The Internet is the platform," said Tim OReilly, OReilly & Associates founder and president during his opening keynote. He termed these major Web sites and portals the "big, killer apps of the Internet."
"These things are services and not packaged apps," he said. "Theyre exploring how to become platform players themselves by exposing APIs to developers."
Following that path, eBay in the second quarter of this year plans to add support in its Web services offering for Simple Object Access Protocol and Java. It already had exposed its online marketplace to developers through an Extensible Markup Language-based Application Program Interface as well as a Microsoft Windows software development kit for .Net integration.
"This lets developers use more of the tools they want," said Debbie Brackeen, director of the eBay Developers Program.
Mainly in the past four months, the eBay Developers Program has grown from about 200 developers to 4,000 developers, who have created links into eBay for everything from automating listings of auctions to handling post-transaction fulfillment.
One third-party, pawn shop chain SuperPawn Inc., of Las Vegas, is reselling used items from its 46 stores nationwide through eBay. Its developers linked SuperPawns point-of-sale system into eBay, and the company also is reselling its application to other retailers.
About 40 percent of eBays listings come through APIs, some from within eBay but a substantial amount from the increasing number of third-party developers, said Jeffrey McManus, eBays senior manager of developer relations.
eBay, of San Jose, Calif., offers access to its developer platform for free but charges a $100 for third-party developers to certify an application, McManus said. Pricing for resold commercial applications and those with high volumes of API calls starts at $500 a month for 30,000 calls to eBay.
Other companies at the Emerging Technology conference touting their developer programs include Google and Salesforce.com Inc., a Web-based enterprise application provider.
"Were all here talking about the same thing," said Adam Gross, director of product marketing at Salesforce.com. "The reason we all have developer programs is because were platforms as well."
Salesforce.com launched its hosted development platform, sforce, in June and has found growing interest from developers in creating connections with its hosted CRM application as well as in developing their own applications, Gross said. Already about 1,000 developers are using sforce with about 10 percent of all traffic to Salesforce.com coming from API calls, Gross said.
In its next release of sforce, planned for the spring, the San Francisco company will enhance its APIs further and provide more customization options, Gross said.
Editors Note: This story was updated to include information and comments from additional Internet companies.