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September 13, 2005 » 2:18 pm

eBay, Skype, and Out-of-band Community Building

Ross Mayfield makes a really good point about eBay’s acquisition of Skype:    (JSU)

Pierre Omidyar once explained to me that one of the smartest things he did when starting eBay was to not constrain communication around his market — by publishing email addresses. He was suggesting to me that we open the Socialtext Customer Exchange, but the core insight is more valuable. Back when I was running a B2B exchange, this was considered a contrarian move. After all, it let buyers and sellers circumvent your transaction fees in some cases. But letting go of control fosters liquidity. Especially when you couldn’t possibly structure communications to fit all transactions. Today I would venture that most of the communication on eBay’s transactions are out-of-band. Other communities with emergent liquidity such as Craigslist succeed by enabling even further out-of-band communication.    (JSV)

(This doesn’t explain the valuation, but I’ll leave that to the analysts to sort out.)    (JSW)

This is a core component of Blue Oxen‘s long-term strategy to build a learning community centered around the field of collaboration. Lock-in completely defeats the larger purpose of such a community, and it doesn’t work anyway. The hard question is, what does it mean to be a “member” of such a community? With commerce-centered communities, the answer is easy: Transactions. For knowledge-centered communities, the answer is less clear cut.    (JSX)

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