Facebook Marketplace debuts

Facebook recently launched its Marketplace, a local classifieds service. It allows users to freely post wanted or for-sale ads, localized by the networks that the user is in. For example, a member of a university-based network will be able to view all the classified ads in that area, simplifying the buying and selling process.

It seems that before the launch of this service, Facebook decided to solicit some feedback from its users about its usefulness to them. After the “debacle” that surrounded last year’s introduction of the “News Feed”, perhaps they were a bit edgy about introducing new features without getting their users’ opinions. However, I believe this new service will be a big success, and should have come earlier. It also perhaps signals that there are more services to come.

If you build it, they will come

Yes, this is true, but with a slight modifier: If you build it, they will come, and possibly complain – but they’ll still come. Look at the news feed – when it debuted, users were up in arms about the “privacy violations” that it would bring. Now, it’s just as much a part of Facebook as anything else. At the core, it’s a good feature, but people just hate change. After they adjust to it, as long as it’s a good change, they’ll like it. And, considering that most of Facebook is the under-30 crowd, who easily adjust to new changes due growing up with computers, the adjustment won’t take long.

Which is why it’s perhaps a surprise that Facebook didn’t introduce this feature earlier. It fits right in with the concept of Facebook, that is, a localized social network of people you actually know. Research shows that people use Facebook like it’s a drug, and now that this new Marketplace is up front and center, it’ll be sure to attract lots of usage, perhaps even providing real competition to services like craigslist. Perhaps that’s the real power of Facebook – it has the ability to provide a huge audience to new services, provided they’re good.

In fact, many developers have rolled out similar services before Facebook’s, some of which even use Facebook’s own API to tie-in the service with Facebook. Also, Oodle recently sponsored a group on Facebook to attract users to its own classified service, though how effective this will be in light of Facebook’s new Marketplace, remains to be seen.

Part of the plan?

Facebook’s hesitation may have been part of their overall plan, though. No doubt they have smart people working for them, monitoring various online services that they’d like to compete against. They may have seen the popularity of classified ad sites, or more importantly, those that were using the Facebook API to implement their services. By allowing these sites to “take the plunge”, they could gauge the viability of such a service to the Facebook crowd – that is, whether it was worthwhile or not. Then, once they were convinced, they could begin working on an in-house version, that once ready, could be dumped onto “the masses” for an almost-certain success. Perhaps this was at least a part of the reason for the development of Facebook’s API last year.

Feature creep

Though I believe that this should have come earlier, I respect Facebook’s hesitation at introducing new features. Facebook, at it’s core, hasn’t changed much. They’ve only added new features slowly, and by doing this they avoid feature creep – the stage when an application has so many features that most users don’t know what they all do, and as a result, it ends up feeling bloated. Remember, when it comes to widely-used applications, simple is beautiful. By introducing new features only once in a while, Facebook gives its users time to adjust, so that they don’t feel like the site is changing into something very different than the one they joined.

However, I believe this may signal the end of Facebook’s Flyers, a paid ad feature. These were little user-generated ads that could be purchased for a fixed rate – you could, for example, buy an ad that would be displayed for 10,000 page views. Most of the ads that I saw were classifieds and would fit right in the new Marketplace section of Facebook. Now that you can place such an ad for free that people can search for, I see little use for “Flyers”. Facebook will likely quietly retire this feature, or it’ll only be used by companies wanting to advertise products and promotions.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have go list my textbooks on the Marketplace.

One Comment »

  1. Oodle just took over Facebook Marketplace.

    I have a client who uses AdWords to sell over 8000 home electronics products, using model numbers as keywords.

    Oodle told me yesterday that $.20/click would get them listed… but isn’t Oodle a USED items venue?

    I assume that we’ll see Bing fully integrated into FB soon, and 500 million users will tip the scale toward Microsoft and away from Google (maybe to a shocking extent). Has anyone heard anything about such an integration?

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