How eBay is developing with Adobe's Apollo project

I've been very impressed with how forward thinking eBay is. They seem to have lost some of the "street cred" that the other big internet companies get, but they realize how valuable Rich Internet Applications can be and they have been working with Adobe's Apollo project to explore what RIAs can do for their users. The result is the "San Dimas" project, an RIA that uses eBay's open APIs to give buyers and sellers additional features that aren't available on the website.

eBay
When people talk about the big internet companies, eBay sometimes seems left out. People consistently talk about the battle between Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft because the "search war" makes for an interesting topic to write about with some big players involved. But while all of that is exciting, companies like Amazon and eBay have been quietly doing some innovative things in the tech world. Amazon has the S3 Storage System and eBay has been experimenting with different technologies to make it easier for their users to buy and sell things on eBay.

One of these experiments is the "San Dimas" project. The most excellent San Dimas project (name courtesy of Bill & Ted) is a child of the eBay Developers Program and EffectiveUI. Alan Lewis, the technical evangelist of the program answered some of my questions about San Dimas and how they are using Apollo. As far as I know, eBay is the only large company that has looked into Apollo. Alan made sure to stress that right now they have no plans to release San Dimas but they are still working on it, so read into that what you will.

San Dimas

Screenshot of "San Dimas"

The San Dimas project leverages the free APIs that eBay opened up for free last year (the APIs have been available for 6 years now) to provide a desktop application for people who want something a little more robust than the eBay website to manage their auctions. Because San Dimas uses Apollo, it can take advantage of the desktop and provide things like local storage and desktop notifications very easily. Alan also mentioned that one of the big advantages of the desktop model is improved caching. For instance there is a web service call to go out and grab the entire tree structure of eBay's categories. In XML format, this is about a 20 meg download. With Apollo, the team can call this once and cache it on the local machine so that the application never has to make the calls to get subcategories. This means fewer calls to the server and better performance.

While San Dimas makes managing auctions easier for the hardened eBay veterans, it's also an experiment in using Flash to make it easy to get started on eBay. You can create an auction and then use the Apollo to connect to your web cam and take pictures of the item you are selling. Those pictures are stored on the hard drive and can be added to the listing. In addition, it allows buyers to search and monitor your current bids. It can also give you desktop notifications for your auctions so you can track it and make sure you win the Wii that you're overpaying for.

The San Dimas project is a sign of how excited people are about Adobe's Apollo. It isn't entirely clear whether or not users will eventually get to use San Dimas but it's been shown at conferences to quite a bit of excitement. It's a fantastic example of the blending desktop and web with one of the webs biggest properties.