E-commerce Made Easy: eBay and the NetBeans IDE

By Jim Inscore, August 23, 2005  

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As strategic partners, Sun and eBay share a commitment to delivering fast, scalable, reliable services to users. The two companies also share a passion for helping developers build those services.

So at the eBay Developers Conference, held alongside the company's Community Conference in downtown San Jose in June, NetBeans IDE evangelist Brian Leonard presented the latest on the NetBeans IDE and how it helps speed and simplify building applications for the eBay platform.

eBay Developers: A Thriving Community

While waiting for Leonard's talk, I caught up with Greg Isaacs, director of the eBay Developers Program. Isaacs filled me in on why developers matter to eBay -- and why Java technology matters to eBay developers.

"The eBay Developers Program started in 2000, mostly by accident," said Isaacs. "We found out that there were commerce sites out there using our infrastructure -- basically screen-scraping HTML to use the eBay resources. So we started supporting development on the Java platform and other popular technologies for building web applications. We've since opened it up with web services over the last two years."

Isaacs reports that 18,000 developers joined the program in the more than three years that eBay has officially offered it. In addition, more than 1500 applications are up and running, accounting for an extraordinary 70 million API calls a day.

"The way we see it," said Isaacs, "eBay isn't just providing a service -- we're providing a proven, robust global platform for e-commerce. And the way we know it's robust is that we build our own front ends on the same infrastructure, using the same APIs and services."

The eBay vision includes the whole applications ecosystem: eBay itself, its users and customers (whether buyers or sellers), and application developers. The eBay Developers Program and events like the eBay Developers Conference in San Jose are an outgrowth of this vision, a necessary link in the chain that sustains and grows this global platform.

Isaacs continued: "Currently, 22% of the listings on eBay come from third-party applications. We're built on a Java technology base, in part because we have to be able to do transactions in bulk. And only the Java platform can support the kind of transaction volume we execute daily."

The majority of participants in the eBay program work for small to medium-sized companies, averaging 10 to 20 developers per shop. Like eBay, the developers are capable of quickly evaluating opportunities and developing capabilities to enhance the value of the eBay platform -- beyond just buying and selling goods.

For example, Isaacs cited several third-party applications that Developers Program members have created, including Configurator, Trade-In, Fit-Me, and Mobile Bid/Buy.

Configurator is a third-party application that lets buyers customize specifications on items in a seller's inventory. The look, feel, and market of Configurator is completely customizable for use in any e-commerce web site that uses eBay to provide its back-end sales capabilities.

The Trade-In application lets buyers list items they might have for sale or trade, find their trade-in value based on current pricing for similar items on eBay, then use that value to make purchases on eBay or to apply as credit for future purchases.

The Fit Me Size Genie is a marketplace tool that can remember a buyer's measurements. Using this feature, any seller can access the information and offer items that fit them just right -- a win-win for both buyer and seller.

Verizon Mobile offers the Mobile Bid/Buy capability, enabling phone users to search for items, make bids, and track auctions anywhere, anytime through their mobile devices.

Getting With the Program

The eBay Developers Program offers a variety of resources to help developers get started building their own applications or to add eBay functionality to their existing e-commerce sites.

The Developers Program web site provides an overview of the eBay platform, lists upcoming events, and provides access to eBay's various developer resources: SDKs for a range of technologies, including the Java platform, access to various levels of the Developers Program, support, and instructor-led training for newbies.

Java technology developers will find more information at the eBay Java Developer Center.

Among the resources is the Java Developer Checklist: a simple list of steps to get you going with the eBay SDK for Java technology, including access to downloads and documentation, as well as offers of support and services to maximize your capabilities as an eBay developer.

In addition to resources available on the site, eBay has two evangelists: Adam Trachtenberg and Alan Lewis. Trachtenberg's full-time focus is helping developers develop Java technology applications for development on eBay.

Seasoned web application developers will be familiar with the range of underlying technologies supporting the Java eBay SDK. These include technologies such as SOAP and the eBay REST API for web services, based on Sun's Java Web Services Developer Pack.

Join the eBay Developers Program and access the resources offered, including future eBay Developers Conferences, trainings, events, and more.

In addition to third-party applications, eBay offers the Community Codebase, a community development project to help software developers collaborate on creating open source applications using eBay web services. Projects in the Community Codebase include tools for buyers, for sellers, for use with PayPal (a service now provided as part of the eBay platform), as well as tools to help developers build, debug, and deploy their eBay applications.

Getting Started With eBay Development in NetBeans

As Brian Leonard demonstrated during his session at the eBay Developers Conference, the NetBeans IDE has a variety of features that help simplify building empowered applications for the eBay platform.

Among the features that had developers at the conference sitting up in their seats was the NetBeans IDE's ability to parse and test web service methods directly from the IDE -- a feature that drew oohs and aahs from the audience.

Another attention grabber was a cool new visual tool -- code-named Matisse -- that lets developers build rich client applications using drag-and-drop design. While other Java technology graphical user interface (GUI) builders provide minimal interactive design, Matisse takes advantage of guidelines suggested by the underlying operating system, ensuring clean, simple, elegant designs that automate placement and alignment of the various widgets in Java Foundation Classes/Swing (JFC/Swing).

Using these NetBeans IDE features, Leonard was able to quickly build a simple storefront manager to enable sellers to easily change the look and theme of their web presence. All told, designing, coding, and deploying the application using the NetBeans IDE and the eBay Java SDK took fewer than 10 minutes. And the visual design was clean, elegant, and easy to modify -- with minimal recoding.

"For me," said Leonard, "not being an eBay developer but trying to learn the APIs to build some samples, NetBeans' code completion, integrated Javadoc, and Java debugger really helped me quickly get up to speed on the eBay platform."

You can read the PDF version of Leonard's session, available along with the other eBay Developers Conference sessions and read his blog.

Leonard has also written two articles on using the NetBeans IDE with the eBay SDK: " Using NetBeans to Develop With the eBay SDK for Java" and " Launching the eBay Java SDK API Calls Demo Sample Application From NetBeans 4.0."

For Java application developers who are seriously considering building e-commerce storefronts, there's probably no better place to start than the eBay SDK for Java technology and the NetBeans IDE.

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