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eBay boots off Skype rival

Wounded kitten bites spinning hook

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eBay, still smarting from Monday's $1.43bn admission of Skype's failure, last night deleted auctions that carried click-to-call buttons for VoIP rival Jajah.

Jajah released its embeddable buttons last week, and decided to take the provocative step of promoting a special version for eBay auctions. Businessweek claimed there had been a deal between the two to approve the buttons, but no such talks occurred.

eBay's terms and conditions state clearly that links to "live chat" systems are not permitted. Powersellers who installed the button received emails to tell them their listing had been removed for the violation.

A spokesman for Jajah acknowledged that discussions over eBay's potential reaction had taken place, and that the move had been made to "test the water".

Jajah boss Roman Scharff said he would ask eBay to reconsider. A statement said: "The bigger issue at play here is the open nature of technology and the next generation of the ecommerce. We believe in a world where the lines of commerce, content, and communication are blurring."

We wouldn't normally give such a blatant PR move the time of day, but Jajah offered genuinely useful features to sellers that eBay hasn't bothered to develop in Skype. It allowed contact details to remain private - no Skype name to give away. The caller didn't need a Jajah account, just an ordinary landline or mobile, and it was possible for the seller to configure Jajah so it would not appear on the auction at inconvenient times of day.

Jajah claims "several thousand" eBayers had added its buttons before the ban. It's indicative of how, while many thought it overpaid when the Skype deal was announced in 2005, eBay has also failed to get the most out of it since. And it's always nice to see rivals kick one another when they're down. ®

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