Earlier this year Vuvox, a startup that generates rich interactive slideshows, was acquired with little fanfare by eBay. Vuvox slideshows put the generic, thumb nailed images on eBay to shame, allowing users to include video, audio, and impressive photo collages into an embeddable Flash widget.
But until recently users had to go to Vuvox’s homepage directly if they wanted to include a widget as part of their auction. Now, eBay is conducting a pilot program for its automobile auctions, presenting sellers with an option to include the enhanced slideshows for free. The results are very cool, allowing prospective buyers to intuitively browse through auctions in a way that is as informative as it is attractive (you can see some example slideshows here and below this post).
eBay says that there aren’t any concrete plans to offer Vuvox in product categories beyond automobiles, citing the fact that most people spend far more time on a car listing than they would on a auction for an old book or pogo stick. This may be true for the most part, but the feature would also likely come in handy for expensive fashion items or large lots of collectibles. Users can still visit the Vuvox homepage to create and later embed slideshows into any auction, but most eBay users won’t know about this option unless it is integrated into the selling process.
Outside of eBay, users can choose to create their own slideshows for other purposes (like creating virtual storefronts linking to other sites, or just presenting their photos in a cool way). A number of media organizations, including The Washington Post, are using the technology to create enhanced stories (you can see an example here). For the time being this is all free, but that may change – expect eBay to try to monetize this somehow, perhaps by only allowing embeds of Vuvox slideshows in auctions if the seller pays a few dollars.