eBay needs no introduction. As the offer for a position like Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) at a company so large and successful, one would think the need for a change, even small is probably not warranted. I don’t know if this would really be something eBay would ever really be interested in, because it could really be a standalone business, but the eBay name might be worth the marketing and branding power. eBay is just the example I have chosen, and another online marketplace might be (and probably is for various reasons) more suitable. But lets pretend everything I say makes sense for at least some online marketplace somewhere (Craigslist perhaps).
I have always been interested in companies and services like eBay and other marketplaces because it places a lot of trust in the overarching business as well as the consumer on the other end of the transaction. It doesn’t always appear obvious, but we place a lot of trust in a lot of services and techologies we may not even know. Getting in an Uber, a plane (trusting the computer software that often runs many planes), going to and using an ATM (maybe one at an unfamiliar location), dispersing personal information on a variety of places on the internet. They all have potential for harm, identity theft, etc. yet we, often, blindly, accept these unwritten terms. All of this boils down to trusting someone or something. Buying products online from another consumer could go awry in different ways. Identity theft, trust that the product will be delivered, divulgence of personal information, etc. are all things we have to trust a stranger with. So what if the person you’re buying from is not a stranger?
Social networks and makretplaces could be merged to offer something more friendly, and familiar. Think Instagram meets eBay. People can post items they are looking to sell for free and through their social network of followers, lurkers, freinds, whatever they may be called, a buyer can be found that has at least some connection to the original seller. The level of trust is lowered since they are either an immediate or closely related connection and can intereact with them through their social network, even if they live on opposite sides of the United States or abroad. People, I would believe, would feel more comfortable buying and selling from connctions in their own social networks. And wouldn’t buying and selling from friends/friends-of-friends be a little more fulfilling than a stranger from Idaho? Of course an account could be turned into a large congolomerate of random followers and it becomes eBay in a more attractive app form, but at least the opportunity to form closer networked marketplaces is available. We can call this eBay – connect (or anything else you might like).
I would have to hire some technologically savvy people to help with getting this service, and app up and running, so West Shepherd would be a first choice from class. He is experienced in entrepreneurship, technology in general, and development of an app. I would also look to bring along some coders to build the actual software. Sorry to all in the class, contact me if you have some hidden talents, but I’ll be looking at silicon valley, or the new(ish) silicon alley… As far as philosphers of the class, I think Castells would be aligned with my thinking. Although the piece we had read last week was about social movements, much of the basis of his theory comes from social networks. I think he would find this to be yet another implementation of social networks into practicality. eBay – connect. coming to your iphone soon.