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A requiem (beta) for Edgeio

March 01, 2006

Edgeio, the much-hyped Web 2.0 tag-sale site, has only been live for a few hours, but it's already wearing a corpselike look.

Cofounded by Michael Arrington, the madam of the great Web 2.0 brothel TechCrunch, Edgeio gathers specially tagged classified ads from sundry RSS feeds, aggregates and categorizes them, and then republishes them at its own central site. (Or, as it snappily says of itself: "edgeio dynamically organizes listings published from RSS enabled websites making them discoverable via the edgeio website and through an open set of web services.") So, let's say I finally decide to unload the old canoe that's been patiently wasting away on sawhorses beside my garage for the last three years. I could post a little ad on this blog, wrap the text in a special tag and, thanks to the genius of Dave Winer, it would soon show up among various other disused personal flotation devices over at Edgeio. Now, of course, I have no desire whatsoever to start sticking classified ads on my blog, but never mind that - it's the elegance of the idea that counts.

Edgeio is entering a crowded market that, thanks to cheap startup costs and an influx of VC greenbacks, shows no sign of thinning out for a good long while. It's going to have to compete against a whole lot of other similar web services with names as silly as its own - eBay, Google Base, Craigslist (not so silly, actually), Monster, Oodle, Indeed, BlogBuy, Windows Live Expo, etc. - as well as many new ones that will no doubt spring up in the months ahead. It will also compete, of course, against newspapers, Yellow Pages, and other old-school media.

Now, at a techno-theoretical level, Edgeio is quite cool. But in the face of fierce competition, cool alone won't cut it. And, at a business level, Edgeio would seem to have more than a few problems. There's the avalanche-of-spam problem, which has already been much discussed. Edgeio says it will fight spam through a combination of "social controls" and filtering. Well, good luck. There's the fraud problem. "It is currently being left up to the buyer and seller to close the transaction," reports TechCrunch, helpfully. There's the walls-of-confusion problem, which Dion Hinchcliffe has described. Ping servers? RSS feeds? Listing tags? Content on the edges? Jeez, I just want to sell a freaking canoe. There's the who-wants-to-stick-classified-ads-on-their-blog problem (see above). There's the most-people-who-sell-crap-don't-even-have-blogs-or-websites problem. Yes, believe it or not, it's true. There's the old how-do-we-actually-make-money problem. Edgeio seems to be punting that question for the moment, but selling ads to run beside ads appears to be one idea for the future.

But most of all there are the two problems that Mike at Techdirt highlights: a lack of barriers to competition (the downside to building a company on "an open set of web services" is that your business model is really easy to copy) and a lack of meaningful differentiation from the customer's perspective ("We hadn't heard of people complaining that Craigslist and eBay were too centralized," says Techdirt, drily). It's hard to see exactly how Edgeio will pry a lot of customers away from an entrenched player like Craigslist or protect itself from a head-on assault by, say, Google or Microsoft or Yahoo.

In short, Edgeio enters a crowded market with a ton of pizzazz and a gram of strategy. Sound familiar? It should. It's what's engaved on the virtual gravestones of hundreds of dot-coms.


I totally agree. Here are the filters in order for them to make any money true):

1. People with something to sell AND
2. Have a blog/website they can post to AND
3. Are willing to post it there AND
4. Will signup for EdgeIO AND
5. Can get through the "claim my website" step AND
6. Somehow find a buyer who is also using the site AND
7. Be willing to pay something for the service AND
8. Somehow believe that all of this is better than existing alternatives

I'm guessing this is a very, very small pool of people and a very difficult way to build a profitable business. But then again, I'm a simple minded guy. I could just be missing it.

Posted by: Dharmesh Shah at March 1, 2006 09:18 PM

Since Edgeio depends on people posting classified ads on their blog and tagging it with the tag 'listing' what is to prevent some other start-up from crawling these blogs to set up their own version of the same system ... ultimately these folks would fight on who can make the sleekest AJAX-based frontend and Search engine (wait ... who needs that with tags anyways) ???

Posted by: Murali at March 1, 2006 11:26 PM

Great post, love the comments too.

Posted by: Douglas Clifton at March 2, 2006 01:53 AM

Sorry, but I still don't get what the service is for, why it's new or anything. I've been reading their website, like, five times, and I still can't get what "an edge" is; "In & Out" sounds like Chincken & Egg and Two sided markets to me, i.e. failure if the service isn't appealling to at least on side of the market, which here happen to be equally lost---but I wouldn't know why. What you describe is something competing against the lower level of Google AdWords, a program so successful a 82% growth is considered a failure, and whose next competitor isn't half as efficient. Anyone would say simplicity is the key, and what this service is is certainly not simple. Ads in RSS? Whatn't that the End of It All two months ago? Plus the name is impossible to pronounce. I mean, for anyone outside the Vallei-iy.

Well, if it is about having a web site and somehting to sell, I have an idea of a classifed: "Grt wb prjct, Ad on RSS cntrd, w/ cool name feat. 3 scssv vowels."

OK, we are all bitching around---but the fact is I spent half a day trying to figure out what is was, in vain.

Posted by: B at March 2, 2006 04:36 AM

Hi. Can you check out closo.com?
What closo does is, it allows an individual or a store post his products for sale, add paypal or merchant accounts, then push to various marketplaces online (we'll add RSS and some other features soon too). So we keep the content, but we push. When people come directly to the site, they can also sort for local or international items.

Posted by: Vladimir Kovalyov at March 2, 2006 07:02 AM

I think that 'Michael Arrington, the madam of the great Web 2.0 brothel TechCrunch' is the funniest line I have read so far this year!

Posted by: kosso at March 2, 2006 07:35 AM

"I have no desire whatsoever to start sticking classified ads on my blog"

I think this is going to be a major issue with Edgeio. A blog is a valuable extension of a personal brand, in this case Nick Carr Inc., and I don't think many bloggers, after working hard to establish a brand will want to tarnish it with a classified ad.

I mean, the things that make a good classified ad are the very things I wouldn't want directly on my blog. And vice versa. I wouldn't want my classified ad starting with "Note to readers: This is a classified ad for an item I'm selling on Edgeio, please ignore this and move on to others posts". Probably won't help me get the best value for the item I'm selling.

And as a subscriber to said blog, I would probably ignore an initial classified ad or two, but I would be looking fairly quickly unsubscribing if it was a regular event (ala Ebay power seller).

The idea is clever, the execution (I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here) is poor with respect to commercializing it.

Posted by: Fraser at March 3, 2006 12:28 AM

we dont have to worry too much about edgeio, spam will kill them soon.

Posted by: Srinivasan at March 3, 2006 07:11 PM

I mostly agree. I listened to a presentation by Edgeio a short time ago, and they essentially punted on a question about monetization.

They may be able to become a 'meta-classifieds' site like Oodle - but with much more automated model. Monetizatin question still remains - I doubt Google AdSense as the sole revenue model is any good.

- Michael

Posted by: Michael at March 5, 2006 01:54 AM

I am convinced that the end user finds it easier to publish classified ads in a website like Craigslist.org or Adoos.com (ours site) rather than in a Blog.

Even so, if blog classified publishing does pickup, we would also start crawling those ads too and including them in our ad database.

So where is the value provided by a service such as Edgeio?

Posted by: Julian Martinez at March 7, 2006 11:35 AM

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