eBay Listens to Customers, Retires Old Search Engine

| About: eBay Inc. (EBAY)

eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) announced that it is retiring its old search technology in April 2009 in favor of the new search technology introduced last year. Currently 90% of users are now using the new search engine and the company is aiming for 100% conversion. Jeff King, Senior Director of Finding, states that the new engine is cleaner and faster and will deliver better results. He stated that eBay incorporated user suggestions to make the search engine better – so yes, management is apparently listening to users.

King said:

In a nutshell, it looks at a multitude of details in listings to deliver more of the results you want. It makes it easy to browse and narrow your selection, and lets you choose how you want to see the results. With the new auto-complete feature it even 'anticipates' what you're typing in the search box.

eBay also stated that there are several new features in store.

"These features include but are not limited to:

• Adding the "Get More results in Other eBay areas" you can see currently at the bottom of the classic search pages as well as the Tools Section

• Upgrading the Category selector on the Advanced search pages to reflect any subcategories you may have used in your browse path

• Including a new customize your preference function so that you have more control over what you see in the left navigation

• Updating the drop downs to change your sort and view to make them easier to use

• Creating a more user-friendly experience when your search returns 0 items.

• Supporting the ability to do a negative search in a lower level category
Last but not least, we wanted to let you know that we will continue our ongoing efforts to incrementally increase the site speed.”

I have long held that search is extremely poor on eBay and the function should be outsourced to either Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) or Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO), who specializes in search. Even with the new search engine in place, I continue to believe that search needs significant improvement. I am willing to give the new engine the benefit of doubt for about another six months to see if it is a material improvement or is at least comparable to Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).

Remember that Amazon acquired specialized search knowledge through the development of A9.com, which itself was a failure from a commercial perspective. However, the knowledge learned was invaluable for Amazon and has been leveraged across the Amazon.com sites.

At least eBay’s management is for once admitting that they are listening to users.