EBay sellers fear San Dimas desktop app won't prove 'most excellent'

Dude, where's my listing?

Fans of '80s teen comedies know San Dimas as the Los Angeles suburb that's the hometown for the lovable dimwits of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

More recently, it has also served the code name for an upcoming desktop application from eBay that the online auctioneer is betting will prove totally awesome for its hundreds of millions of buyers.

Since a rough preview was shown off at Adobe System's MAX user conference last year, it has generated approving whoa!s from bloggers and journalists alike.

San Dimas was released into public beta this week and formally renamed eBay Desktop.

But some ardent eBay users, particularly small sellers, are saying, "Dude, no way." They argue that San Dimas' streamlined user interface, especially the fashion in which it searches for and lists items, is bogus, because it will make it harder for their wares to be seen by potential buyers.

"San Dimas may be fun but if chosen it could make for some serious changes to a full-time seller's ability to sell and remain profitable," wrote "sandrarn" in a posting on eBay's discussion forum.

"Ninety-nine percent of what I do on eBay is sell," wrote "Melrose_stamp" on an eBay blog after testing the new app. "EBay Desktop looks to do little to enhance my eBay selling efforts."

Alan Lewis, eBay Desktop program manager, conceded in a Tuesday interview at Adobe's Max conference that San Dimas "may appeal more to some than others." But he pointed out that eBay's power users are notoriously vocal.

"They get annoyed if we change the font size on a hyperlink during the fourth-quarter Christmas season," he said.

Though eBay is "not standing still" with its Web site, the company is betting heavily on the offline version being welcomed by most users.

"We have the ability to create a better eBay," Lewis said.

EBay Desktop offers a cleaner, minimalist interface designed byEffectiveUI that eliminates a lot of the strategic (but from a buyer's standpoint, extraneous) information on eBay's Web pages, Lewis said.

"Why is the big list of categories on an eBay Web page so unnavigable? It's built for search engines," Lewis said.

San Dimas is also a lot nimbler than the eBay site because it can download and cache information into the SQLite database running in the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) framework upon which San Dimas is built.

That means users can quickly set keyword filters -- both adding and subtracting words -- and see their revised search without having to go back and pull new information from the eBay Web site, according to Anthony Franco, EffectiveUI's president.

That offline cache also means that auction ending times can count down without forcing users to hit the refresh button on their Web browser, Franco said.

And because eBay Desktop is an application of its own, it can run in the background and send buyer's alerts and status updates so that they can monitor the auctions they are interested in without having to "sit in the Web browser all day" or wait for e-mail or text message alerts, Franco said.

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Eric Lai

Computerworld
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