Edgeio could become like Craigslist 2.0

by Mathew on February 9, 2006 · 26 comments

In addition to running the very influential Web 2.0 site TechCrunch.com, and writing a blog called CrunchNotes.com, Mike Arrington has been working on a startup of his own called Edgeio (along with Keith Teare) – which Rob Hof of BusinessWeek got a demo of recently. Some might wonder why another kind of classified service is worth getting excited about, but the Edgeio model has an interesting and potentially disruptive twist. In a nutshell, listings of things for sale don’t have to be posted to a service such as eBay.com or Craigslist.com or BuyMyUselessCrap.com – they can live on your own blog or website, or anywhere. If they are tagged “listing,” Edgeio simply grabs them and indexes them.

This is the kind of extension of the “tagging” idea that really starts you thinking about what could be accomplished by simply tagging different items in a certain way and then indexing them. In a sense, it’s the ultimate expression of the “microchunking” idea, as venture capitalist Fred Wilson “edge” expert Umair Haque of Bubblegeneration calls it (thanks for the note, Umair). Let people find what they want wherever it happens to be. Tag a post on your blog “music review” and have it aggregrated; tag it with any number of other tags, and have them sorted and aggregated.

It’s a powerful idea, and in a way it accomplishes what the “structured blogging” crowd have been trying to get at, without all the coding and formatting. As Craig Donato of the classified search engine Oodle.com mentions in the comments below this post, there is also the “microformats” project, which is discussed here and an example of which can be seen here. A Swiss startup called Ichiba seems to be going for the same market, judging by the explanatory cartoon on their website.

On a somewhat related note, it will be interesting to see what kinds of conflicts of interest get declared when Mike launches Edgeio, given the recent story in the WSJ. Adam Green has more on that angle. Dave Winer, for one (who is an advisor to Edgeio), is already congratulating himself and wishing himself much success.”

Update:

As several people have pointed out to me, including one person whose comment appears below this post, what Edgeio has in mind isn’t exactly easy to do – the sheer brute strength required to somehow find and exclude all the inevitable spam listings would be similar to what Google and eBay.com have to do every day to prevent themselves from being deluged with fakery and phishing. So Mike and his company have set a pretty high bar to jump over, and it will be interesting to see if the product lives up to the promise.

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  • http://blog.oodle.com craig donato

    i think what edgeio is doing is interesting. if you agree, i’d also encourage you to look at(and comment on) a recently proposed microformat specification called hlisting http://www.microformats.org/wiki/hlisting-proposal. This would enable a wide variety of engines (Oodle, Technorati, Google) to easily find and reference a classifieds listing posted on a blog.

    You might also want to check out an alpha version of an open-source plug-in for WordPress that uses this spec — http://blog.labnotes.org/2006/02/07/posting-a-listing-with-wordpress/

    interesting times…

  • Mathew

    Thanks, Craig. I will definitely do that.

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  • http://www.inods.com Vaibhav Domkundwar – iNods.com

    Mathew:

    My company iNods is in a similar edge content aggregation and search space. Edge content aggregation can really delivery a lot of value but there will be a lot of challenges in terms of consolidation and discovery of that edge content. Infact this is the real challenge for more edge aggregation plays.

    The idea of asking users to tag their classifieds with “listing” tag is good but its not trivial to achieve on a large scale. Secondly, if the whole idea depends on this then its tough to make it work. There is biggg chicken and egg problem here. Now assume that people start tagging their classfieds with “listing” tag – in this case it will be trivial for blog search engines to roll our a similar service in a fraction of the the time and with a much wider coverage.

    In almost all edge plays, I believe it is critical to have a stronger barrier to entry and/or some other community angle that makes it unique. We do have a similar challenge at iNods (we think we are solving the edge content discovery problem is a more defensible way) and you will see how we are addressing it with a range of our upcoming features.

  • Mathew

    Thanks, Vaibhav. iNods sounds like an interesting experiment.

    Mathew

  • http://www.plentyoffish.com Markus

    I think there are some serious serious flaws with this.

    Like craig I block several hundred con artists and scammers per day. Ebay, Amazon etc all use IP address and X_forwarded_for etc to detect 95% of the cons and spam. Once you go to a distributed system you lose the ability to detect most of that stuff.

    The nigerians and russians etc are going to create fake sites, and flood edegio with listings. You will then be lured to those other sites and enter your CC etc. Think Ebay email phishing turning into blog listing phishing. Ebay employs over 1,000 people to stop scams. A site like edegio would need at least 10 to 100 times the work force to achieve the same effect.

    All i’m really saying is this site would have a lot of growing pains, and a lot of bad publicity. Now assuming it does well what exactly is stopping technorati from assigning 10 developers for a week and clone the system?

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  • Mathew

    Good points, Markus.

  • http://www.podtech.net John Furrier

    EdgeIO main founder besides Mike is Keith Teare. You article makes it sound like Mike’s startup when actually it’s been Keith Teare and Mike Arrington who put it together.

    EdgeIO is certainly poised to be disruptive and the market is ripe for it

  • http://www.plentyoffish.com Markus

    Thanks Mathew,

    I should add some more context to my comments. I run one of the top 10 sites in canada, if not the largest. Plentyoffish.com which has over 13 million pageviews/day. I am also the largest 1 person internet company and have been extremely disruptive basically destroyed the paid dating model in Canada and now starting in the US.

    1. Existing players will view this company as Free R&D
    2. They will have several clones within weeks if it gains traction.
    3. The scam problem etc may seem small now. Trust me if they gain any sort of traction they are looking at 90% scams. Since they are collecting listings and people selling stuff the abily to detect scams is extremely low. How can you really detect scams from collecting a pile of spam ?

    4. Existing scam detections such as used by all major retailers can not be used.

    I believe if they want to be truely disruptive they should go out and collect peoples resumes and build a metabase of those. There is enough critical mass there that it would take off FAST, given that something like 30% of bloggers are doing it to advance their career.

  • Mathew

    Thanks, John — you’re right, I should mention Keith too.

    And Markus, thanks for the additional info. I added an update to my original post noting that the task Edgeio has set itself is not going to be easy. I wonder if they will take you up on your resume idea.

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  • joe

    Markus brings up an interesting point….when postings are supposed to be ads, how do you distinguish between legitimate ones and spam? Is there a meaningful distinction?

    Flat-out fraud would count as spam, of course. If there’s some kind of classification system (electronics, books, etc) then purposely mis-classified items would be spam. Beyond that, I don’t know.

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