Facebook Announcement Not Really about eBay

Industry observers were anticipating eBay and Facebook would make a joint announcement at last week’s X.commerce Innovate developers program. Fueling speculation was the news that Facebook executive Katie Mitic, who leads the company’s Platform and Mobile Marketing, had been named to eBay’s Board of Directors late last month.

But the Facebook announcement at Innovate did not impact eBay Marketplaces. Instead, eBay Inc announced the integration of Facebook’s Open Graph functionality into eBay’s Magento and GSI Commerce platforms.

Facebook had already announced the new Open Graph functionality at its own developers conference last month, telling developers they could create apps that would allow users to see Facebook buttons similar to the “like” button, but using any verb. So, for example, a reading app might define the ability to “read” (action) a “book” (object). A recipe app might define the ability to “cook” (action) a “recipe” (object). Facebook users could then click on a “cooked it” button on a recipe website to indicate they had cooked a meal – more descriptive than a simple “like” button.

Facebook created sets of actions and objects for common use cases and a tool for developers to create their own custom actions and objects. It explained, “As users engage with your app, social activities are published to Facebook which connects the user with your objects, via the action.”

Retailers across the web were already excited about the idea of adding “want” buttons to their product listings when they heard about Facebook’s new functionality last month. (See Wish Lists and Want Button Coming to Facebook.)

Last week’s announcement at eBay’s Innovate conference means retailers using Magento or GSI Commerce will be able to add the buttons to their listings. But eBay didn’t say if or when such buttons would be added to its Marketplace sites.

eBay first added Facebook and Twitter share buttons to Marketplace listing pages in late 2009, but they were hidden behind a pull-down menu labeled “Share” located right next to the “Print” and “Report item” links. It wasn’t until April of this year that eBay placed Facebook Like buttons at the top of product listing pages directly under the listing title.

eBay is ambivalent about social networking as it demonstrated earlier this year when it caused a stir after telling sellers they would get in trouble if their social networking friends bid on their auctions (it subsequently modified the policy).