As TechCrunch reported back in December, Oodle is taking over Facebook classifieds. The new service launches Wednesday and will be rolled out to Facebook users over the next sixty days. I’ve been bearish overall on companies that require local network affects, and usually classifieds fits in that bucket. As good a job as Craigslist has done it only monetizes about 1% of its users, and that’s probably one reason it has spread as far and as fast as it has. But- by design- it’s not the next great billion dollar Web powerhouse.
Oodle, too, has been a long slog. As founder and CEO Craig Donato told me last week, had he known how hard of a slog classifieds would be, he might have chosen a different startup idea four years ago. I’m sure he was (partially) joking, but Oodle has long been the question mark in David Sze’s otherwise stellar Web 2.0 portfolio that includes Digg, LinkedIn and Facebook. (Now, some see Digg as the question mark, but that’s a different post.)
Oodle has done two things well to combat the local trap. One is deals with huge properties like MySpace, Facebook and AOL that really juice distribution and listings. As a result, before it even goes live with Facebook or AOL, the site has 40 million listings with 500,000 new ones added each day. Second smart move: Making classifieds social, not local.
Increasingly, the social Web has created more meaningful communities than just geographical proximity. Sure, we are more likely to know and regularly interact with people near us, so you can’t ignore geography. But think about how many times you’d rather sell something or buy something from someone you know or someone who knows someone you know, than someone whose only commonality is living in your city.
The Oodle app is coming about just at the right time for Facebook. Not only is the site huge, but it’s so focused on the Wall that distributions of listings and conversations around items for sale will be natural and organic. And unlike eBay or Craigslist, it’s just a few clicks to post something. You fill in what it is, why you’re getting rid of it, how much you want and designate whether you’re giving it away, selling it, or want the money to go to charity. Can you imagine if posting something on eBay was that easy? My dining room of boxes would be empty.
That’s not to say Oodle replaces Craigslist or eBay. You can reach a wider audience, and hence conceivably make more money on both of those. And Facebook could be too tied into your social graph for some transactions. Do you want your boss to see your old Playboys are for sale? Lastly, if you’re setting up a small ecommerce business, I doubt Facebook marketplace is the right fit. But if you’re just a regular person who has something they want to buy or sell for a fair price from a reputable dealer whose reputation they can trust– it’s going to be a stiff competitor.
And come to think of it, wasn’t that the original eBay community?