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December 01, 2005

Why Microsoft’s classifieds service will be better than Google Base

Why Microsoft’s classifieds service will be better than Google Base

By Charlene Li

I spent some time a week ago with Microsoft discussing their new online classifieds service, code named “Fremont”, which is in internal testing now. While the news is out there, I thought I’d provide my take on how this differs from – and in my opinion, is better than -- Google Base. I do this with one HUGE caveat – both of these services are brand new and beta, with Fremont not even available yet.

First, a quick description of Fremont. It looks and acts like a classic online classifieds site. A list of linked categories is on the front page and users can browse or search through the listings. A key difference though is that the listings are turbo-charged – as the poster, you can control who can see them, from everyone to just a select group of people on your MSN Messenger buddy list. If you choose the latter, the next time one of your privileged buddies signs into Messenger, they’ll see a little alert that says you have a set of golf clubs for sale. The categories include the usual suspects – jobs, homes, apartments, cars, and one thing that caught my eye, tickets.

That’s because one of my favorite uses of Craig’s List is to find last minute event tickets to hot shows. I also sometimes find myself in that seller situation – and I would highly prefer to sell or even give away tickets I can’t use to friends than to strangers from Craig’s List. The same goes with clothing – I don’t want to go through the hassle of selling some of used but still very nice clothes online, but I wouldn’t mind organizing an online clothing swap with my girlfriends.

The Microsoft approach reminds me of what Tribe.Net was (is?) trying to do in their effort to socialize classifieds but with one major difference – Microsoft leverages the social network that already exists in a user’s buddy list and address book.

So I look at Fremont and I see a really nice service shaping up. The classifieds interface is familiar – each category has the expected search fields (number of bedrooms in housing, make and year in autos, etc.) and the opening page lays out all of the options in a simple manner similar to Craig’s List’s austere list of links.

Now compare that to Google Base. Honestly, can you imagine your average user trying to make heads or tails out of it? Don’t get me wrong – I love Google Base because of the audacious potential it represents in terms of creating new content for the Web. But in terms of a classifieds service, it will take a lot of application development to get it to the point where the average Joe will be able to use it.

One last point about Fremont – it’s being built on top of the new Windows Live platform, which has as one of its core tenants giving developers the ability to build their own applications. Now this is one of the potential benefits of Google Base as well, but I’d put my chips down in favor of Microsoft actually pulling this one off. Microsoft has a well supported developer network and has come a long way in winning their trust through efforts like Channel 9. Granted, that trust is far from universal but it’s a start.

And on a related note -- where is Yahoo's classified service in this discussion? While general merchandise categories are free, the key top categories (jobs, homes, and cars) are all paid rvices. As it is to be expected it will take a while for Yahoo! to come to grips with its legacy paid online classifieds business model, especially its HotJobs service.

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Comments

Eric Baillargeon

> I love Google Base because of the audacious potential it represents in terms of creating new content for the Web

A word is missing here : "Invisible" Web. Google have disallow Google Base for his main index in the Robots.txt. Why that move ?

Nachi

Charlene...well said...MS does have a few built in advantages on this one....

Bernard

>Honestly, can you imagine your average user trying to make heads or tails out of it?

I have to agree here. I love the Googlebase interface but.... I can't see my mum being able to figure out how it works.

Roger Jennings

Google Base has a UI that only a mother could love. My take is that Google Base isn't intended as a standalone service, but rather a public backend for a wide variety of forthcoming Google and (perhaps) third-party apps.

There's more on differences between Fremont and Google Base at http://oakleafblog.blogspot.com/.

--rj

Dave

Googole Base is NOT meant to be a classifieds service so it makes no sense to compare Fremont. Google Base is a launch pad for about 10 undisclosed Google services, one of which is Google Classifieds. Writers of articles like this should get more facts on what Google is actually doing instead of comparing 2 services that are not even in category. Thats all I have to say.

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