December 27, 2000, 2:13 PM — Last time, we discussed a new variant of XML. In this newsletter, we have a new use for the standard: interfacing to eBay.
If you have used any of the early third-party products that purport to interoperate with eBay, you will have noticed a couple of common themes among them: They were fragile and they were clumsy.
The reason for these egregious faults is obvious. The only way developers could interface to eBay was through "screen-scraping" -- that is, grabbing data from the HTML stream sent back to a browser and reusing it as content for a user interface presented by a local application.
Of course, eBay didn't like some of these third-party products. The company went to court to stop Bidder's Edge, and Bidder's Edge responded by countersuing eBay with an antitrust claim (Both suits are pending).
Above and beyond legal action, eBay has another way to defeat third parties: All eBay has to do is make a few modifications to the HTML layout, and any screen-scraping system has to be re-engineered to extract the required data.
But the folks at eBay -- canny devils that they are -- know full well that there are plenty of opportunities in a structured developers program, so that "qualified" third parties (read: third parties that eBay approves of and signs a deal with) can interface with the eBay system.
Enter the eBay API. Based on XML, the eBay API provides full access to all of the content and processes of eBay through function calls with associated Document Type Definitions. The API allows developers to:
- Retrieve information about items.
- Get user information.
- Get eBay news and announcements.
- Retrieve item lists by user, by offers or by bids.
Becoming an eBay developer involves an unspecified licensing fee, and licenses may be granted for publicly distributed products as well as private, noncommercial systems.
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