Some have mistakenly compared it to an Ebay for e-services: Ether (opens in new tab), which was launched at the beginning of the month, allows customers to pay via phone or email for support services such as legal advice or plumbing advice.
You can phone the service provider either for free or for a per-minute/hourly rate, and Ether takes 15% of everything billed. It is definitely a momeny making opportunity which should give you an idea of why Ebay paid $2.6 billion for the Skype start-up.
The difference here is that you get a real phone number with Ether, rather than using a headset and VoIP services like users of Skype. This could eventually launch a number of services, from legal to slightly dodgy ones.
Comments on Techcrunch have pointed to service/advice website Keen.com, one of the first live answer communities back in 1999. It has since become a psychic kind of thing, which is not very different from the small, non-conventional ads printed in national newspapers. On the net, however, they charge much more per minute.
Furthermore, Ether will have to pull out a very special card to avoid immediate defeat by Paypal/Ebay/Skype. The auction giant has not unveiled anything in that direction, but it won’t have to spend $100m on marketing to get the ball rolling. Ditto for Google, who already has Google Base, Google Purchases, and the soon-to-come Click to Call, which will probably be VoIP based.
Stuck between the rock and the hard place, nimble Ether can only hope for a knight in shining armour. Yahoo! is the ideal candidate; whether or not it will fork out serious money is anyone’s guess.