Web 2.0 Summit: Meg Whitman, eBay CEO

Published on October 18, 2007
by John Paczkowski

What an inopportune time for a conference appearance. As eBay CEO Meg Whitman takes the Web 2.0 Summit stage, eBay shares are trading down more than 6% amid concerns that the company’s core online auction business is slowing. Though eBay posted earnings yesterday that exceeded Wall Street expectations, its auction listings fell year over year for the second consecutive quarter and it suffered its first sequential dip in active users ever.

Huh. We’re already 10 minutes into the conversation and Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Media, hasn’t even mentioned yesterday’s earnings. We have learned, however, that Whitman actually uses eBay and once sold her Mickey Mouse skis on it.

Is there a social-networking play in PayPal? O’Reilly asks.

Whitman responds that the “question is, over time, could PayPal become not only your wallet, but your reputation and your identity as you move around the Web? And I think that’s possible. There’s a huge opportunity here, but you have to be careful because you’re dealing with identity, financial identity, presence and reputation.”

Wow. Turns out eBay has a law-enforcement division that apparently includes some former FBI people. That said, eBay believes people are basically good, but that doesn’t mean EVERYONE is basically good. “We’ve developed expertise to help fight bad buys on the Web,” Whitman says, adding that eBay has some 2,000 people who do fraud modeling, etc., to keep eBay free of “bad actors on the Net.”

Then, onto other areas of the company: Are you still bullish on Skype? O’Reilly asks.

“Sure we’re stull bullish,” Whitman parries. “We’re a bit dissapointed, but bullish. We’re better positioned after the earnout to delight customers. We don’t have to worry as much about revenues and operating margins at this juncture. Skype still has great potential, and Skype 4.0 is on the way.”

O’Reilly: You’re looking for a new CEO?

Whitman: Yes, we are looking for a new CEO. There has been tremendous interest.

(I wonder if she’s got Jeff Citron’s CV sitting on her desk.)

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