Ask Auctiva: What Would a PayPal Spin-Off Mean?

Director of Engineering Tom Urbanowicz answers this and other questions from Auctiva customers.

by staff writer
- Mar 24, 2010

There's a lot of buzz lately that eBay will spin off PayPal. If they were to go through with it, how do you think this would impact buyers and sellers?

—Ambivalent in Albany

Urbanowicz: Initially, the impact would be minimal in terms of user experience. PayPal is entrenched within the eBay ecosystem—both technically and culturally. PayPal's level of integration far exceeds that of Skype, for instance. Because PayPal is so familiar within the eBay ecosystem, eBay would likely keep the status quo for some time in order to avoid jeopardizing buyer and seller trust.

A spin-off scenario would certainly offer a broader marketplace for PayPal's independent growth and could loosen PayPal restrictions on payment methods. By the same token, it would also leave eBay behind to prove ongoing value to users and shareholders. In Q4 2009, PayPal accounted for about one-third of eBay's revenue.

What are your thoughts about Microsoft's new eBay listing tool, the eBay Simple Lister?

—Surveying in South Bend

Urbanowicz: I think it's great—both for the growth of eBay applications and for the growth of the underlying technology (Silverlight). The listing tool was demonstrated at a recent technical conference for Web designers and developers. Even engineers at the conference who hadn't sold a thing on eBay were impressed with the intuitive user interface. This type of application will be a great introduction to eBay for new sellers and a good tool for current sellers.

Is Auctiva ever going to introduce more listing templates?

—Eager in Eastleigh

Urbanowicz: Yes. Our graphic design team is wrapping up more than 50 new templates. I expect these to be available in April. While we'll have an announcement when they're out, keep a lookout for titles like "Streamline Spring," "Chinese Summer" and "Duck Feet."

Do you think eBay CEO John Donahoe is worth his recently reported $10.1 million salary?

—Jaded in Johor Baharu

Urbanowicz: First, to be clear on the facts, this figure includes Mr. Donahoe's annual salary plus bonuses, stock, incentives and so on. Based on a 40-hour work week his base salary of nearly $1 million computes to about $463 per hour. (His per-minute earnings approximate most states' hourly minimum wage). Regardless of my individual opinion, shareholders, buyers and sellers have consented to Mr. Donahoe's compensation package. As a publicly held company in a free market, they have both directly and indirectly approved Mr. Donahoe's compensation.

I read that a deaf woman is suing eBay for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act with its seller-registration process. What does Auctiva do to ensure its tools meet ADA accessibility requirements?

—Wondering in Warren

Urbanowicz: First and foremost, our site designers and developers remain informed regarding usability and design. For example, many developers use a toolbar utility for Firefox that evaluates our site's compliance with the Access Board's 508 Standards. (The Access Board is an independent federal agency that promotes accessibility for people with disabilities). This area is of keen interest to me personally, having done work for a law firm that was an advocate for the rights of the disabled.

Do you think Meg Whitman will carry the eBay seller vote in the California gubernatorial election?

—Observing in Oamaru

Urbanowicz: As a lifetime California resident, I wouldn't be surprised either way. Citizens are eager for significant changes—particularly fiscal reform. Remember 2003? Disgruntled Californians ousted incumbent Democrat Gray Davis (a seasoned politician) with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger (a successful businessman, philanthropist and actor).

However, while eBay is headquartered in California, only a fraction of eBay sellers are California citizens. Whitman will need to work hard at earning the vote of the state at large. Beyond political affiliation, a seller's tenure with eBay will be an influencing factor in establishing the success of Whitman's administration.

Sellers' experiences don't necessarily dictate present political decisions. I had the opportunity to hear Whitman speak locally on a campaign stop. I was one of the few attendees who had been an active seller on eBay when she led eBay. As an accomplished public speaker, she is a clear communicator who is compelling and personable. It will certainly be an interesting race to watch.

What do you predict will be the hot items online this summer?

—Exploring in Elizabeth

Urbanowicz: Looking at past trends can help predict what might be popular this summer. During the past years on eBay, top-selling items included men's and women's clothing and accessories. Additionally, fiction books for summer reading and consumer electronics were sold in high volume. I would assume that trend will continue.

Really, it's really not too much different than what we've seen historically. In the '20s, best-sellers included women's summer dresses and large hats. The hot new technology of the mid-'50s was the transistor radio. It's likely our keen interest in electronics and fashion will continue in 2010.

You can ask Auctiva management your own questions by e-mailing "AskAuctiva" at the Auctiva dot com domain. Not all questions will be answered, but those selected will be published with responses from Auctiva's top managers in future Ask Auctiva articles. Due to the volume of mail we receive, it will not be possible to reply to you personally.

Please do not submit inquiries requiring an immediate response. If you need a technical issue resolved right away, please use the online form to file a support request and your case will be addressed by our customer support team.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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