Ebay + Skype = Semantic Web - Google ?
But in my opinion, they have all got it wrong.
Before I go any further, let me tell you who founded Skype - Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis. Two guys who also wrote software to share files and gave the recording industry a severe case of ants in their pants. Given that Skype is an "inflection point" (I seem to be quoting Andy Grove a little too much these days)for incumbent telcos, it leads to reason that there were other, more eligible suitors for Skype in the very relevant and related field of telecom voice carriers.
But they gave it up to Ebay.
Now let us look at a very relevant question - Who is the biggest threat to Ebay? It's not rival auction sites, it is not brick-and-mortar liquidation houses, it is not entities like Amazon zShops. It is Google... or whoever among Google, MSN, Yahoo is going to win the search war.
People "google" for stuff, they never "ebay" for anything. Google is now the defacto standard for our collective intelligence. It is Cerberos holding the keys to everything.
It is a very, very trivial matter for Google to setup its own auction house and the scaling up of its business will rival Ebay's in a much shorter time. Given that Google has shown keen interest in setting up a monetary transaction system to rival Paypal ( and given the fact that half the people are fed up with Paypal - check out the Katrina Relief fiasco) and it wont be surprising if they create something simply too good to be true.
All this is setting up stage for a direct confrontation with Ebay. There is no way in hell that Ebay can create a search engine to rival Google.
Two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle - Gmail and Skype. How could they possibly be related, you ask? Ahh but sire, therein lies the key. Gmail has set a precedent that could I like to call "non-invasive invasion of privacy". In other words, targetting advertisements related to the actual contents of my very private emails. Is it too difficult to carry this over to voice? Is it too difficult to integrate sophisticated AI on the Skype software to deliver targeted ads? And since Skype already manages to keep your telephone calls private, routing them through your neighbors computer, it is not difficult to add some semblance of privacy to these targeted "advertisments".
The war here will be fought on battlegrounds of technology as well as legal hallways. Currently VOIP does not come under the purview of regulators - which gives Ebay+Skype some breathing space. But in that time, if they can come up with a legal shield that will allow them to do this, it will all but cut off Google from their channels of distribution.
Building up Skype as the world's leading provider of VOIP is part of the package. That will allow Ebay to reach into homes and tap into your conversations. You could be telling your buddy that you were thinking of buying a not-too-expensive pearl necklace for your girlfriend, and suddenly Skype's software queries Ebay for "cheap+pearl+necklace". The results could be delivered via SMS, Email or by a tele-marketer.
While online advertising has a good enough conversion ratio (converting clicks into actual purchases), this would beat the pants of everybody.
In my opinion this is a mighty fine gamble that Ebay has taken. And I'm surprised no one else has speculated this way (Robert Cringely, are you listening??)