OSCON: Bill of Rights for Web Services, Panel

Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly & Associates, Inc.
Jeff Barr, Amazon.com
Jeffrey McManus, eBay

Tim O’Reilly: What is Open Source trying to accomplish? Bill of Rights is an agreement between multiple parties.

Jeff from eBay: When there was a bug in our web site last month, it was good to be able to communicate directly with the developers.

Jeff from Amazon: It was a pretty cool thing to watch them migrate Amazon.com from a Web site to a platform. I work with developers to let them know what our Web Services are for. We’re a commercial business, and we’re there to make money but at the same time we’re an open company and want external developers to manipulate our data in ways we’ve never thought of.

Tim: How do you feel about sites that actually direct traffic from your site, but still actively use your data?

Amazon: As long as at some point during the data presentation it sources Amazon and references back to Amazon with a link, we don’t necessarily care.

Audience: What happens if developers are using your APIs and data and then you suddenly take this technology away/

Ebay: The eBay API is not experimental, and will not likely go away. 30% of listings come through the API.

Dave Winer (Audience): Tim, whose rights are you worried about? Users? Developers?

Tim: We need to identify early on where the lock-in points are. If Ebay were to turn into a Microsoft example, then some squeezing is going to happen.

Ebay: Paypal is a good example. I have to go to our competitors and evangelize our technology to them.

Amazon: You cannot re-sell our data. We don’t allow that. You can’t run a bot against our entire site and take all of our data and then republish it or re-syndicate it.

Tim: One thing that is grabbed regularly is book covers. Amazon does not own those. How do you feel about people taking those images?

Amazon: We have to work with the publishers and assure them that providing their book cover images to us is a good thing.

Tim: What if a blogger wrote an Amazon review? Wouldn’t it be cool if that data could be sent to Amazon’s servers in a syndicated format? It needs Creative Commons license because Amazon says they own all the reviews on their site.

Ebay: We’re getting rid of using email addresses as a unique ID through the API, because it causes security issues.

Amazon: We are not in the business of selling shrinkwrapped software. We focus on fulfillment and behind the firewall. The logistics of shipping 1.5 million Harry Potter books in one day is phenomenal, but we figured it out.

Tim: Ebay has actually shipped client-side tools, but Amazon has not.

Amazon: The Amazon store builder site is an example of a developer using our APIs to leverage the data and hooks we provide. The Associate Shop.

Audience: How do we prevent getting screwed by the platform vendor? The CDDB thing is an example. How do we stop Ebay and Amazon from doing the same thing?

Dave Winer: Amazon is not a great company, they are a patent abuser.

Amazon: I’m not the patent spokesman for the company so I cannot answer your claims.

Tim: While Amazon has continued to file patents they have not used them offensively since the incident a few years ago.

Audience: Are you guys a marketplace or a content provider? If you decide that the content is valuable then you could end up screwing the developers who are building services around it.

Ebay: I think it’s possible to be both.

Tim: There are a lot of things about open source that just work, and that’s why it’s going to succeed. We did a pretty good job of shaming Amazon during the one-click patent situation.

Audience: Why isn’t the code that runs Amazon and Ebay open, if the data is what is the value?

Audience: I have no interest in the back-end code, but rather am interested in the quality of the data. I can’t compete against you. I’d rather leverage your data.

Amazon: As long as it’s in our best interest to provide the data via an API we will ocntinue to do so.

Audience: We just don’t want to get screwed.

Posted by Cameron Barrett at July 10, 2003 03:21 PM

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