February 20th, 2006

Edgeio Is a Step Forward, Not a Revolution

by

It took me a while to put my finger on why I didn’t share the excitement of the masses over Edgeio — not surprisingly, it was Umair Haque who showed me what the problem is:

Will Edgeio be Craigslist 2.0? Maybe, maybe not. I haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t know for sure.

But I can point out one issue that I see with this school of plays – you have to already be invested in the edge to participate. That is, you have to have a blog, website, etc – somewhere to put your tagged classified.

Now, that may help with identity and trust. But it also kills the magnitude of network effects.

That is, the utility of these models is bounded by how the fixed cost of investing in the edge (setting up a blog, etc) is in the first place.

Do these costs outweigh the benefits? I’m not entirely sure – but I would bet Craigslist and eBay will still be relatively hyperefficient.

Leave it to Umair to cut through the hype. It’s worth listening to Brian Oberkirch’s podcast interview with Umair just to hear Umair shake his head at Edgeio. (For the uninitiated, Brian’s interview is a great Umair 101.)

Since Jeff Jarvis wrote his Edgeio rave after Umair’s post, I’ll try taking it on (although not as well as Umair would):

I’ve been writing for a long time that the future of classified advertising — and more of media — is distributed. That is, you won’t need to go to a centralized marketplace — the newspaper or even Craigslist or Monster — to let the world know you want to sell or buy or find something. Instead, you’ll be able to put your listing up anywhere with proper tags and then specialized search engines, like Edgeio and Oodle, will find them so buyer and seller can find each other in a distributed marketplace with far less friction and far more control at the edges.

First, as a seller, I may be able to maintain control of the listing, but I still need to depend on Edgeio as a centralized marketplace to connect me with buyers. I can control my listing content, but I can’t really control the marketplace. And if it’s true what I read that Edgeio plans “to charge powersellers 25 cents to get top positions on their listings page,” then I essentially still have a middleman with a thumb on the attention scale.

On the flip side, as a buyer, I may benefit from some efficiencies of sell-side content management, but where’s the revolution? Better categorization? Frankly, what I want most as a buyer is what Ebay already provides — a rating system to help me avoid scam sellers.

So is Edgeio a step forward? Probably. Is it a revolution that will kill Ebay? Likely not — at least not yet.

  • Oops, I think I accidentally started that darned eBay killer meme at the start of February:

    Edgeio - Mike's Little eBay Killer

    Of course it's not an eBay killer, but I do think that decentralization will undermine centralized silos at some point. One of Umair's concerns is that not everyone can contribute to this type of edge eater, since most users don't blog. I've been looking into how edge feeders might solve this problem to some extent:

    FeedXS - An Early Edge Feeder

    Ultimately, all this stuff is way ahead of the curve and it will be hard to convince mainstream users of the benefit.

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