At the same time, I happened to be on eBay today and noticed that I've been an eBay member for just over 10 years. Why is it that we haven't found a better way to run auctions online? Most people still list and participate in online auctions almost exactly the same way they did 10 years ago.
I do agree that the pace of innovation is increasing, so maybe 10 years starting from 2010 is the same as, say, 20 years starting from the year 2000.
But I think chances are high that Google will dominate search in 10 years. If someone discovered a better way (and there are many, they just haven't caught on yet) they would just buy 'em out, right? ;) Or maybe Bing will win. But then it's Microsoft winning, and Microsoft is older than me.
I think an auction's network effect is harder to beat. Search doesn't have the network effect so Google was able to win just by being the best, to beat google at search now you're going to have to be an order of magnitude "better" and have non copyable tech. Facebook was able to beat Myspace even though they had the network because for personal identity the tone and "coolness" is very important. But for an auction it's all very impersonal the only thing that matters is the size of the network, there's not a lot of opening for a competitor. The only way I can imagine to beat ebay would be with a massive amount of money to just pay people to come over.
Hard to beat, but not impossible. As far as auction sites go, NYSE/ARCA was (about 15 years ago) pretty much the only site providing double auctions for stocks. Now there are lots of them - BATS, BSX, assorted darkpools.
to beat ebay you'd start by establishing a base in one market (either one geographical region, or one type of product), and then expand from there. And even if you don't manage to beat ebay, you'd have a decent chance of establishing a moderately-sized business along the way.
I thought about (and setup a prototype) starting an ebay competitor a few years ago now.
The main thing it was going to do differently, was instead of having a fixed ending time for an auction, it would be conducted like a regular auction - in real time, via AJAX, and the auction ends once no one else bids.
Seemed like that realtime element, along with no 'sniping', fairer bidding, a cool UI etc would be a good reason for people to switch.
But the network effect is massive. To be successful as an ebay competitor, I think you'd need a pretty large marketing budget, or several people working on promotion full time.
It's ripe for the picking though. And massive profits.
Does ebay run auctions the exact same way as they did 10 years ago? In some sense, auctions are the same as they were however many thousands of years ago when the idea was invented, today though ebay has branded it and built in some levels of assurance and trust, it's still an auction but they'll help you dispute and resolve issues.
I expect if there is a different way to slice search, google will explore it. Fundamentally, if you're going to beat them then you have to index more, better, faster, and somehow produce better results, then provide a better experience. I'm not saying people shouldn't challenge them but they're good and I think it's an insanely difficult challenge to beat them.
In 10 years, we'll still know of and probably use Google, I don't know if that's true for bing or ddg, or any of the others. Unless we stop searching.
For the same reason that Craigslist is still king despite its tragic UI. Solving the chicken-and-egg problems of a large, active community and brand-name recognition is orders of magnitude harder than just making a new auction website.
It's not pretty, but that's about the least important element of web-design.
It's very easy for people to understand how things are organized. Cities are organized together, categories are organized together. All of the pages are text-based so pages load fast. Various functions on the page are explained with helpful text explaining what's going on when you try and post or respond to a post. Etc.
Their UI can be improved with a little more padding in places and a little more focus on quality typography, but it's remarkable that such a large site has maintained such a quality design in the face of enormous pressure to change.
Craigslist is minimal but reasonably well-designed. Amazon on the other hand I would go so far as to call awful. The #1 thing I'm looking for when I open a product page is the details about the product and it's below the fold. But still, they know far more than me about what sells, so I bow to their judgment.
I have a pretty good idea for how to combine both concepts, running auctions using Craigslist, but keep running into the limitations of their API. It's on the shelf right now, but I am thinking I might take another look at it.