eBay Buys Search Technology Firm

Acquisition centers more on talent than tools.

by Auctiva.com staff writer
- Jan 13, 2009

eBay continues to tinker with its search mechanism—and its latest move seems to indicate it's serious about improving the "finding" experience.

In December, the auction site bought Positronic Inc., a little-known Seattle-based company founded in 2007, to help provide "a more predictive and compelling customer experience," according to eBay's official blogger, Richard Brewer-Hay.

Positronic, formed by two former Microsoft executives, was created "to push forward the state of the art in machine learning and computational science," according to its Web site.

eBay has hired Positronic's co-founders Christopher Payne and Dane Glasgow, to serve as vice president of Search and vice president of engineering, respectively. Prior to forming Positronic, Payne served as Microsoft's corporate vice president and Glasgow was general director of Program Management at Microsoft's Live Search.

"On the surface, it looks more like a talent acquisition than a technology buy," notes John Cook, co-founder and executive editor of TechFlash. "But the question remains: Can a couple of former Microsoft search gurus transform eBay's search efforts?"

eBay probably hopes so. Users have criticized the company in the past for the shortcomings of the site's searching abilities. Sellers have been even more critical since eBay made Best Match the default sort order last year. Best Match considers the popularity of an item when returning results—which, according to reports, favors large merchants over small-volume sellers.

The acquisition could help eBay's work out its search kinks. Payne's biography at Microsoft notes he "…focused on delivering the best search experience for customers and helping them find the information that is important to them."

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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