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Sliding out of Beta

Posted by: Sarah Lacy on August 09, 2006

In the Web world, it’s fashionable to stay in Beta in perpetuity. But there are exceptions. Yesterday, Max Levchin’s Slide announced it was emerging from Beta-land. Levchin was the co-founder of PayPal and has been slogging away at Slide for about two years.

It’s a hard company to describe in a sentence. It has this elegant, stock-ticker like slide show you download and then commission to go out in the Web and grab things for you. Right now, most of the million-plus people who’ve downloaded Slide, use it as embedded “bling” on their blogs or MySpace pages. (See some celebrity cred by Justin Timberlake here.) Interesting. But decried by critics as little more than a feature, not a business.

But the original inspiration behind Slide was decidedly more Web 1.0. The tool would go grab examples of say, hip women’s shoes, from the Web and deliver them to you. No scouring and searching involved. That is where the promise of Slide really lies. The company already has deals with Zappos, Blue Nile, Gap, Blue Fly and others, and yesterday, announced Slide just for eBay sellers. Oh, and there’s that whole revenue thing: Unlike most new Web companies it’s not just ads. Every time someone clicks to buy something delivered via a slide show, Slide gets a cut.

Currently, Slide lets an eBay dealer show everything in its inventory on one screen in a browse-able format. Not-yet-released will be a tool for eBay buyers that delivers auctions they want to their desktops. Levchin wouldn’t go into much detail about what it is just yet.

He is hoping eBay's community affect will make this a big boost up for Slide. "It is the only marketplace online that is also a community," he wrote in an instant message amid late night coding. "Communities are inherently self-educating and self-improving. Many buyers are sellers are buyers, so the product can grow and increase simply by way of the community carrying it around."

Sound a little like PayPal to anyone? No doubt, he is stealing from the playbook. The question is how much sellers need Slide, the way they needed a better payment system. Of course a fraction of the many eBay users who use PayPal could use Slide, and it’d be a success. But the ultra-competitive Levchin probably wouldn't be content with anything short of ecommerce ubiquity. Looks like he’s got another long Web 1.0 road ahead of him.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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