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EBay’s Survival Lesson – The New York Times

EBay’s Survival Lesson – The New York Times
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EBay’s Survival Lesson – The New York Times

EBay’s Survival Lesson – The New York Times

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I want it to be OK for a business to be just OK. This is why I want to talk about eBay.

Some of you may vaguely remember buying from eBay during the peak days of Beanie Babies, or maybe you never thought about eBay at all. The value of products sold on Amazon is about six times what eBay sells each year.

But eBay may have found a groove. It’s premature to call it a success, but shoppers are buying more there and the company has made peace with not being a store of everything. Instead, eBay tries to focus on what it does best. (The company will say later on Wednesday how its business has been over the past three months.)

The former CEO of EBay aspired to “make a bigger difference in the world”. The new eBay mainly tries to satisfy its loyal buyers and merchants.

I know I pass eBay off as a college graduate who prefers to relax rather than stress in order to be successful. But what if relatively modest ambitions were enough? It’s not always a good thing for people and businesses to have the biggest dreams imaginable.

Let me go back to eBay’s dark times leading up to 2019, when it was both surprisingly successful and disappointing.

EBay for years held a distant second behind Amazon among shopping websites in the United States, but it was losing ground even as Americans bought much more online. EBay has been overtaken by Walmart and Amazon and smaller online specialists like Etsy. The company has seen tragedies, including rowdy investors who wanted eBay to change dramatically and a CEO who disagreed with their ideas and resigned two years ago.

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Slowly and incompletely since then eBay has reshaped itself. He dropped out of some businesses and focused on selling in areas reminiscent of eBay’s roots from the 1990s: second-hand items, slightly outdated products such as popular toys from last year, and collectibles such as as sneakers, luxury watches and trading cards.

No, creating a better digital forum for these articles is not a big innovation. But sales increased further. Colin Sebastian, a stock analyst for investment firm Baird, told me that eBay still needs time to prove that its recent improvements aren’t just down to people making purchases. all over online throughout the pandemic. We’ll see if eBay has found a formula for a strong and lasting shopping site for years to come.

It’s also possible that eBay is missing out on a chance to be a little more reckless in attracting our loyalty at a time when people’s buying habits are more changeable than they have been for a long time.

But I want to appreciate what some of eBay’s boring fixes and the humility of its mission have done so far. With Shopify, the largely invisible powerhouse behind many local shopping websites, eBay may be showing that there is a third technological path between the alien riches of titans like Amazon and Google and the craters of industry failure.

One of the lessons of Big Tech is that we could all be better off if we didn’t rely so much on a handful of great powers. Once they’re that big, businesses can dictate access to information, personal data habits, and business models in ways that should make us a little uncomfortable. It’s healthy if we have more alternatives – both the wackiest and the lowliest like eBay – to keep the big guys on their toes.

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  • The football stars asked Facebook for help: My colleagues Ryan Mac and Tariq Panja retrace Facebook’s internal deliberations on what to do about racist abuse online against black soccer players in Britain. In the end, gamers were largely left on their own to try and filter the hate language directed at them online.

  • Take back control of the cloud: Brian X. Chen reminds us that the content we access on our smartphones does not really belong to us, but rather to the companies that save the material on their computer systems. Brian explains the pros and cons of the cloud, and the steps he has taken to regain some independent ownership of his data.

  • A meditation on grief and technology: A BuzzFeed News editor writes about how her late mother’s smartphone photos, text messages and other digital artifacts were sometimes joyful and other times, brought unwanted memories over which she had little control.

This kitten is an adorable but possibly ineffective fly swatter. (Beware of salty language, and thanks to my colleague Davey Alba for Tweeter this one.)


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