eBay vs. Google -- eBay wins!

After eBay pulls Google's ads from the auction site, Google cancels its planned anti-eBay protest.

By Farhad Manjoo

Published June 13, 2007 11:24PM (EDT)

EBay and Google are in a huge fight (not really), and eBay just won! (But yeah, not really.)

So this is one of those things that can look bigger than it probably really is. Back story: eBay is holding its annual eBay Live conference for eBay sellers in Boston this week. In a plucky little move, the folks at Google Checkout -- Google's online payment service, a competitor to PayPal, eBay's online payment service -- decided to protest eBay's policy of not allowing Checkout on its site. The protest was really going to be a drinks party at the Old South Meeting Hall, which the Checkout people noted in a blog post is "the same spot where revolutionaries launched the Boston Tea Party." They called the party "Let Freedom Ring." (Right, because everyone knows the fight for payment-option freedom is just as important as the American Revolution and the civil rights movement.)

In response, eBay pulled out a bazooka, deciding to remove all Google text ads from its site. (But eBay says the move wasn't really in response to the Checkout protest/party, and instead explains it's just "experimenting" with something new -- which, of course, is the standard lie surrounding any bad breakup.) And then Google relented, canceling the shindig! Freedom wasn't that important, after all. Here's the mea culpa, up now on the Google Checkout Blog:

eBay Live attendees have plenty of activities to keep them busy this week in Boston, and we did not want to detract from that activity. After speaking with officials at eBay, we at Google agreed that it was better for us not to feature this event during the eBay Live conference. Google is constantly reaching out to new users and sellers, and we are available to privately discuss any matters of concern with individuals as they relate to Google products. Interested parties may contact us at checkout-reply@google.com.

It's easy/wishful-thinking to see this as a sign of an incipient tech rivalry along the lines of Microsoft vs. Apple. But my money's on it being an errant kerfuffle. Google's decision to hold that protest couldn't have been a very senior one, and there's little shame in canceling such a tastelessly named stunt anyhow. Happy eBay Live!

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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