Let’s say you are a collector of rare Casios. In particular, maybe you are on the hunt for the coveted DM-100. You could make a habit of frequently checking eBay in hopes of catching one of the 3 or 4 DM-100s that get listed each year, or you could just create your own customized RSS search for the DM-100 and relax knowing that anytime one gets listed, you’ll see it.
Or at least you could, up until about a year ago, when eBay quietly removed the option to create an RSS feed based on your search. Luckily this didn’t affect current RSS searches, it just makes it a little more difficult to create new RSS searches. With a little help through this thread I learned that you can still create a search feed by adding &_rss=1 to the end of your search url. So if you’d like to create an RSS feed of that Casio search, simply type in your keywords into eBay search and on resulting page add the “&_rss=1”. Just like this:
There’s still no answer from eBay on why they removed this search tool, which many hardcore users like myself have used for years to buy thousands of dollars worth of goods, but after talking to some eBay/PayPal folks directly, I believe this change represents a shift from simple economics into page views. eBay has a tremendous traffic volume, which it’s trying desperately to maintain, so they’d rather have folks searching ebay on a daily basis, rather than passively subscribing via RSS… even if this means a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars that could come in through users like me who make all our eBay purchases almost directly through our feed readers. It’s also worth noting that this change corresponded with eBay’s sponsored listings, which they can only make money on if I’m searching on the site. It’s also worth noting that this change only seemed to happen in US, so sites like eBay.ca still list (though subtly) an RSS button at the bottom of all searches.
update: A few years after writing this post I bumped into another former-eBay employee. I asked why they thought RSS had been disabled from the site and they quickly answered “ad revenue”. They didn’t work on the team that shut off RSS, so this was just their opinion, but they said that ads had become increasingly important to eBay around this time.