eBay buys StumbleUpon

I know I’m posting a lot of these acquisition notices lately, but it’s not for want of traffic. This is for honest curiousity.

Actually, it leans much more towards the “WTF” end of the pendulum swing.

StumbleUpon is a neat site. I checked it out when it first launched, but admittedly wasn’t something I was about to get too deep into. (Just like I don’t get into del.icio.us, Digg, Reddit, Ma.gnolia, or Furl. Mostly because I’m a lazy bastard, and if my tools don’t do it for me, I ain’t gonna do it.)

It is useful? Potentially. Admittedly, I don’t see a lot of info that weaves its way to me through StumbleUpon (I tend to see more stuff from del.icio.us and Digg), but I’m sure at some level it’s proving to be very useful. I mean, why else would eBay pony up $75 million for it?

The question I have, as does Monkey Bites, is what the heck eBay is going to do with StumbleUpon. If it were Google or Yahoo, this would be largely a “yeah, that makes sense” sort of discussion. But eBay is still largely the centre of the online auction universe. When you think auctions, you think eBay. It’s almost an adjective for selling something.

When eBay bought Skype, I honesty wondered why. Yes, Skype is one of the best things since sliced bread, and you don’t have to deal with a company like Vonage to get your (effectively) free long-distance. Money-wise, it puzzled me as a revenue stream. But eBay seems fairly happy about it.

StumbleUpon begs (almost) the same question. What is eBay planning to get out of this? Why spend $75 million to purchase this tool? eBay’s not into information gathering, at least so far as we can tell. They certainly don’t have an eBay News section, or RSS feeds dedicated to interesting stuff. Just things for sale.

Maybe eBay is trying to be more than just an online auction house. Maybe they’re looking at Yahoo and Google and thinking, “Gee, maybe we should diversify and spread out our chips a bit, just in case the roulette ball comes up red”. If that were the case, you’d think eBay would be aiming for larger profit items — Skype and StumbleUpon combined can’t be more than a couple percent of eBay’s gross profits.

I’m sure time will ultimately sort this little mystery out, but for now, I’d got me wondering.

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