eBay has acquired the team and technology behind recommendation engine Hunch for a rumoured $80million.

Hunch’s predictive technology makes customised recommendations to users based on their individual tastes using a “taste graph”.

It sources data from around the Web, including behaviour on social networks, to map members with their predicted affinity for products, services, other people, websites, or just about anything, and personalises topics for them accordingly.

This will be used by eBay to totally revamp its own e-commerce recommendations, enabling the company to move beyond standard item-to-item recommendations and use a broader variety of members’ online tastes to suggest interesting items to purchase.

A blog post on Hunch’s website explains that during the team’s work on developing external applications that use its API, it met with the eBay team and were impressed with the resulting application and potential.

Hunch co-founder Chris Dixon will take over the recommendations team at eBay and focus on integrating the company’s technology, while also analysing purchase and sale data. This could in theory predict inflation or a looming recession, as well as show economic trends on a scale that’s far more valuable than most government and financial data. 

As if it wasn’t obvious when eBay tied up with Facebook to make social commerce a higher priority, this is even further proof of the company’s investment in this area. eBay is looking to become more sophisticated in terms of its recommendation system, and is inching even closer to Amazon’s model.

Even though the eye watering price tag seems steep, there’s real potential in Hunch’s technology. Let’s hope that the integration produces something of value, since a repeat of the Skype debacle would be incredibly embarrassing.