Friday, 4 July 2008

Reaction to eBay's PayPal-only Rule: a Lesson in "Web 2.0"

The reaction to eBay's attempt to require sellers only to accept payments via PayPal has reinforced a key tenet of "Web 2.0" - that facilitators provide an "architecture of participation" within which users interact and collaborate to improve the service.

Users will tolerate unilateral acts by the facilitator, as long as they trust that the facilitator is acting to improve the architecture - greater efficiency or more features, for instance - although these are clearly best introduced in response to actual user feedback or user behaviour, either on or off-site. Friendster paid the price for not aligning itself according to users' on-site experience and off-site behaviour.

Firsthand experience at Zopa also taught me that users will even tolerate the introduction of fees to the extent that it's a genuine attempt by the facilitator to achieve financial health and stability.

But eBay's decision to impose the PayPal-only requirement appeared to be neither genuinely facilitative, nor motivated by user feedback or behaviour. It hardly seems critical to eBay's financial health and stability. So users punished it accordingly.

Had users not reacted in this way, there might have been a basis for doubting the continuing validity of Web 2.0 as a description of what's happening in the consumer sphere. But clearly the trend rumbles on.
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