Google, Ebay deal will create 'click-to-call' links in search lists, IM

Posted by Scott M. Fulton, III

Mountain View (CA) - Months ago, financial analysts were speculating on the possible implications of a merger between Ebay - which had just acquired IP messaging provider Skype - and Google. If the two became one, they said, search retrievals could conceivably include links that literally place phone calls to sources referred to in each entry. When eBay announced its advertising deal with Yahoo last May, some felt that spelled an end to the "click-to-call" link concept, unless Yahoo were to get its act together and step up its own IM service.

But as Google keeps proving, you don't need to acquire a company to make use of its resources - and perhaps, in this day and age, you shouldn't. In a deal announced this morning, the two companies will, beginning early next year, jointly produce "click-to-call" functionality, with an integration plan that should include Google Search, Google's integrated shopping site Froogle, Ebay's online auction service, and Google's own Talk IM client (even though Skype already has one).

"Click-to-call advertising is an emerging e-commerce model that brings buyers and sellers together by opening up new ways for advertisers and merchants to generate customer leads using the Internet," the two companies' joint statement reads this morning. "It is particularly valuable for merchants or advertisers who may not have a website, or who currently use channels such as local directories to reach potential customers."

This is perhaps the most prophetic statement of the day. While analysts may resume their predictions of the inevitable fall of the Yellow Pages (on paper, at least), suddenly, the prospect of a small merchant being able to post a listing on eBay, and have his phone ring in a minute or so, leads to a startling new view of the future where our traditional concept of a Web site has become obsolete. Why collect customers together in a centralized repository when they can be led directly to your storefront by a context-sensitive ad through an online broker?

The deal will also lead to the addition of a Skype button to the popular Google Toolbar, which has fast become one of the most popular add-ins for both Internet Explorer and Firefox.

In exchange for Ebay making Skype not only available, but prominent, Google will become eBay's advertising provider for territories which the Yahoo deal last May did not cover, including Europe and Asia, and perhaps Canada, but excluding the US. This very extensive partnership clearly changes the mood from last May, when it appeared that eBay was soliciting Yahoo's help (and/or vice versa) to help dissuade an encroaching giant.

The Ebay deal isn't Google's only news today, as the company is also announcing a new bundling concept for its online application platforms, intended to compete with Microsoft Windows Live services.