EBay's AdContext Launch Date Slipping

When EBay announced its June that it would launch a contextual Web ad service (a la Google's AdWords) to be called EBay AdContext, officials there said the service was slated to launch in December. On Friday, officials said private beta test results are still being dealt with and that the launch is now slated for next year's first quarter.

The change is slight and is certainly in keeping with the software industry's history of never shipping a product until it's past time, but it's worthy of note for Web site owners who are interested in exploring the offering.

The service is indeed similar to Google's AdWords, but with one key difference. AdWords is a clear advertiser service, where it displays ads for any advertiser in the world whose product/service match keywords. EBay's AdContext is intended to be a service that only advertises EBay itself, by alerting visitors to EBay auctions that match specific keywords.

If a site is writing about, for example, retailers struggling with the need for more POS units, EBay's AdContext might alert visitors to a current auction selling used POS units.

The difference with Google's AdWords is an assumed greater time urgency. Someone might look at a Google ad and file it away for possible future action. An advertiser might never link that inquiry two months later with the Google ad. But the EBay link would likely be to a time-limited auction, theoretically making a quick purchase?and an associated clear advertiser ROI?more likely.

As for the delay, it's not yet severe, but the program could see more delays next year. On June 21, EBay spokesperson Ali Croft said EBay "expects" AdContext to be live "later this year," but she added at the time that "the official launch timing will depend on how the Beta goes."

On Friday, Croft said that EBay was working through the private beta feedback and that the program was now slated to launch in January, but she quickly amended that to "first quarter." (Editor's Note: The EBay beta program referenced is a standard beta evaluation program. We are saying "private beta" to differentiate from some recent beta tests?from vendors including Microsoft and Google?that are made available to the general public. EBay's beta program is limited to a group of hand-selected users, just the way beta programs were done before the world was Web.)