Baby steps, eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY). Baby steps.

The online marketplace's latest financial report isn't a whole lot different than the ones that you've been hearing for several quarters now. Marketplace revenue (from, for example) is still shrinking. And PayPal and Skype are still posting double-digit percentage gains in revenue.

However, the competence gap is closing. eBay's marketplace revenue actually fell by a mere 1%, and would have inched slightly higher if currency translations weren't a factor, given its healthy gains overseas. Meanwhile growth decelerated at PayPal (up 15%) and Skype (up 29%). All told, quarterly revenue came to $2.2 billion, a gain of 6%, whereas net income plummeted 29%, to $350 million.

This doesn't mean that PayPal or Skype are slacking off. PayPal is still a world-beater, with its virtual platform accounting for $17.7 billion in net transactions during the three past months. There are now 78 million active PayPal accounts -- a 19% increase year over year. It doesn't have the near-ubiquity that Visa (NYSE:V) or MasterCard (NYSE:MA) has, but good luck finding an online payment platform that is as widely accepted. Even Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) entry into this niche has been a non-factor.

Skype is also smiling nicely. There are now 520.8 million accounts, though eBay is set to sell a 65% stake in the voice chat platform by year's end.

The most encouraging part of eBay's report, for a change, is its marketplace business. It may be the least-liked of the company's segments, but it's starting to stabilize. The 1% year-over-year decline in revenue may sound bleak, but compare that to dips of 14%, 18%, and 16% in each of the three previous quarters, respectively. This also marks the first quarter of sequential growth in marketplace revenue in more than a year, even if one can argue that acquiring a few international online classified sites helped pad results.

eBay still has a long way to go. (NASDAQ:AMZN) reports tonight, and analysts see healthy top-line growth there. In other words, eBay still needs to come up with excuses as to why it's not growing as fast as the real e-tail leader. The company is emphasizing fixed-priced listings, so it certainly deserves to be stacked up against Web-based retailers.

The market was disappointed with eBay's guidance for the current quarter. Analysts were perched on the higher end of its forecast of $2.2 billion to $2.3 billion in revenue and $0.38 a share to $0.40 a share in non-GAAP earnings. However, the range midpoints indicate sequential improvement. Before you argue that a sales gain is what's supposed to happen during the holidays, keep in mind that eBay suffered a sequential decline on the top line last holiday season.

It's getting there, even if the "there" is still so far away.