Fusing Online Commerce and Social Network

Enhance Social Shopping Experience via Desktop Application

A Master Project by Ning Song (ningsong100@gmail.com)

Committee: Celia Pearce, Ian Bogost, Michael Nitsche (chair)

  Project Overview

The past few years have witnessed the raise of social commerce practices in the online retail world. The phenomenon has become a new focus for e-commerce industry. Even as the overall effectiveness of various social commerce features are still under study by academic scholars and marketing experts, the online retail industry views social commerce as more than just a trend that may fade away over time. Many experts argue that social commerce/social shopping is the future of the online retail industry. The purpose of this project therefore is to investigate the possibility to combine social media functionality with electronic commerce. My central research task is to meet the challenge of creating an application that effectively merges the existing shopping functionalities of an online marketplace (eBay) with the social networking capability of a social network community (Facebook).

The value of this social commerce application lies in its ability to link the existing rings of social commerce features and streamline the online social shopping experience for eBay and Facebook users. It can arguably also bring significant economic benefit to eBay sellers as an indirect word-of-mouth marketing tool.

Final Prototype: FaceBay

FaceBay is an application that merges the “social” and “commerce” functionalities of user’s eBay social shopping activities. This application utilize the eBay API and Facebook API and take advantage of the social commerce features provide by both.

Application Features:

Underlying Technology and Architecture

The project is developed in Adobe Flex Builder 3. The Programming language used is Actionscript 3. The final product is an Adobe AIR application that that runs on user’s desktop. I choose to make this project an AIR desktop application for several reasons. Adobe AIR runtime lets developers to build rich Internet applications (RIAs) that run on user’s desktop. AIR applications can run across different operating systems or platforms; they are easily delivered using a single installer file; Flex environment also works greatly together with other Adobe programs such as Photoshop, Firework and Flash to build highly engaging, visually rich applications. Overall, Adobe AIR technology suits the technical requirement of the development process quite well. 


In order to retrieve data from both the eBay and Facebook websites, the application makes asynchronous calls to the Facebook server using the official eBay and Facebook ActionScript Library in order to transfer data between the application and web servers. Both eBay and Facebook API require user authorization tokens to validate the connection. Once the connection is established, application can send a variety of API calls to the eBay/Facebook servers.

Upon receiving the API call, the eBay/Facebook server returns JSON formatted data in respond to the specific call requested.  The application will listen to and handle the data returned by the servers. After the built-in parser processed the data being received, they could be stored locally and displayed on the screen with customized renderers. Figure 1 show an illustration of the data flow of the application.

Prototype Video & Screenshots



Main Interface


eBay Search Results and Facebook Fan Groups Display


Facebook Friend Chat Panel



Click here to download the USER GUIDE as Microsoft Word document.

Click here to downlaod the LATEST VERSION of Facebay installation file.

Click here to download the YouTube VIDEO (60MB).

Click here to download the project POSTER in PDF format.

Click here to download the project PowerPoint PRESENTATION SLIDES.

Click here to download the project DESIGN DOCUMENT.