Deadpool claims another victim: Edgeio

Mike Arrington is between a rock and a hard place this morning: He has some news about a failed Web 2.0 company joining the Deadpool, but it’s a company he co-founded and is on the board of, the classified-ad company Edgeio. Mike and the rest of the board decided to shut the company down — a decision that was probably relatively easy to make, since it had apparently run out of money.

Edgeio seemed like a good idea to me when it launched: A kind of distributed version of Craigslist, in which ads would be pulled from wherever they were — sitting on blogs or whatever, provided they had the right tags — and then aggregated at Edgeio’s site. But like Frederic at The Last Podcast, I never found much of value there, likely because not enough people decided to get on board and tag their posts properly.

It’s interesting to read the comments on Mike’s post, as he responds to some of the obvious questions about the failure of the company, including “What the hell did you spend $5-million on” (Mike says: “Parties, scotch, hookers, blow. You know, the usual) and “Isn’t it ironic that you, the king of Web 2.0, have a company fail because it can’t find a reason to exist?” (“That is indeed ironic,” Mike says).

The unfortunate part is that Mike no doubt has tons of inside info on what happened at Edgeio and where it went wrong, but he can’t talk about it. The only thing he says is:

“In general I’ll say this – it is unwise for a company to spend a lot of money building out infrastructure before a product proves itself.”

Good advice.

Edgeio — not an eBay killer after all

Although it kind of got lost in all the hoopla about Google launching a customized search tool, Edgeio got financed to the tune of $5-million on Tuesday, in a round led by Intel Capital. Edgeio is the Web 2.0 classified service that Mike Arrington of TechCrunch co-founded along with Keith Teare, and remains a shareholder and board member of, as he mentions here.

At the time Edgeio launched to much acclaim, it was thought by many — including yours truly that it could become a kind of eBay-killer or a successor to Craigslist, because it allowed any blogger or person with a webpage to place an ad on their page and have it appear in the Edgeio index. But there seems to have been an evolution of sorts in Edgeio’s business model, or maybe something closer to a 180-degree turn.

edgeio

According to Pete Cashmore at Mashable, Edgeio is now integrating listings from eBay and Amazon, among other sites. In other words, rather than an eBay-killer, it has become an eBay partner. Pete says “this always seemed like a more solid business plan that aggregating blog entries, and perhaps the “listing” tag served more as a way to get bloggers talking than as a core strategy.”

Fair enough, but it still seems like a completely different approach to me. Maybe it makes more sense, maybe not. It looks like opening it up to all kinds of classified services has boosted the number of listings — to more than 100 million, according to the stats on the site, in over 14,000 cities and 140 countries — but possibly at the expense of utility. Searching for cars, for example, brings pages full of results from the same commercial auto dealer.

How exactly is that “listings from the edge?” Not what I would call hugely useful so far, and certainly not a Craigslist or eBay-killer. Venturebeat has more detail if you’re interested, and Fraser Kelton has some interesting thoughts in my comments section.

Great party… er, company you got there

If anything sums up the conflicted state of the blogosphere when it comes to startups and Web 2.0 and so on – the fact that the same people who write blogs about cool startups are often people who are involved in other startups, which are then blogged by others, and so on – it is the links that have populated tech.memeorandum.com for most of today (click here for a screencap). Although their positions have shifted around during the day, they are all about Mike Arrington – but from two different vantage points. Some are about his great party (which was held for Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s book Naked Conversations) and others are about Edgeio.com, his startup.

They do have one thing in common though – apart from being about Mike. And that is, they are almost all raves. The posts about the party are raves (even, surprisingly, some from people who couldn’t make it), and the ones about Edgeio.com are almost all raves as well, although to be fair there are a few questions thrown in here and there. But Dan Farber’s post, as my old sparring partner Scott Karp notes, sums up the tone of breathless enthusiasm: it is entitled “TechCrunch leads Silicon Valley Web renaissance.”

Now, Mike seems like a nice guy. And so do The Scobelizer and lots of the rest who were at the party, and many who wrote about Edgeio and the invitation-only previews they got. Mike has also been pretty good about declaring his conflicts, especially after the whole FON brouhaha. But that isn’t really the point. The point is that at the moment the lines can get pretty blurry in the old blogosphere, especially for those in Silly-con Valley – and no, I don’t feel that way just because I don’t get invited to Mike’s parties (and am too far away to go anyway). I think it’s a lingering problem people will have to confront in one way or another if Web 2.0 is going to get ahead in the credibility game.

Edgeio could become like Craigslist 2.0

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.