Sunday, April 02, 2006

UnClassifieds

Was reading this article in an old issue of Business 2.0. The future of e-commerce, it says, will be online classifieds. And heavy investment from Google and Microsoft in this arena will threaten eBay's long-term viability. Auctions are too complicated for most users, supposedly, and consumers prefer to buy locally. (eBay does own 25% of Craig's List, but the author dismisses it as not having adequate online payment/shopping search infrastructure, and not being eager to expand.)

Microsoft plans to launch a classified listing service (code-named Fremont) in mid-2006. It'll be tied in to MSN's mapping service, to help buyers and sellers pinpoint each other's locations. Google Base is "a place where you can post all types of content". Used cars, for example. There were 10 listings within 30 miles of my zip code; Google Base showed them on a map.

Traditional "stuff for sale" listings seem sort of drab, though, even when combined with maps. Someone ought to create a bi-lateral version of classifieds. Upon signup, users would specify their geographic location, list goods for sale AND request items they might be willing to buy. Let's say I'm looking for a cheap sofa. I could search for sellers within an X mile radius of my location, and the system would display possible matches on a map. I also have the option of

(a) Saving the search and receiving notification when appropriate items are added to the system

(b) OR, making my criteria (item/budget/location) available (on an anonymous basis, of course) to prospective sellers, who could seek me out and make me an offer

This could be a particularly useful tool for sellers who have a deadline (moving, leaving town, etc). They could search immediately for buyers in their vicinity, instead of taking time to list items without knowing whether there'd be any demand. What do you think?

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