eBay jumped on the App Exchange bandwagon with an announcement from their development conference this weekend of a bunch of new APIs and development tools. This was a pretty broad announcement – Shoping.com, ProStores and even PayPal (who had traditionally been relatively closed) are participating in the effort – and expands their existing developer efforts significantly (see their developer site for more information). API’s are certainly nothing new – they are common ways for companies to allow access to their systems – but it seems to me that application exchanges are the new ‘it’ thing to do for platform companies (Salesforce.com, Google, eBay, etc.). This is a pretty new concept – companies in the past were extremely protective of their platforms and wanted to control almost every aspect of access to their systems (in this paradigm “open system” often meant ‘we’ll let you use our proprietary scripting engine to ‘develop’ to our platform). Companies have loosened this view in more years and moved to more open API’s (sometimes through a developer program; more recently completely open to anyone who wants to access them). The AppExchange idea is the next logical extension of this (the “Web 2.0 model for development”, if you will) and makes perfect sense: open your system, give support and help to those that want to develop extensions to it and give them a single home where users of your software can find these extensions. Its free development work, makes your platform that much more powerful and provides a nice sourcing ground for potential acquisitions.
Now we’ll just have to wait and see if the more embedded platform players swallow their pride enough to do the same. Are you listening Oracle?