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eBay has quietly launched a U.S. version of Kijiji, a free classifieds service that began in February 2005 and is now serving 17 million users in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, China, Japan, Taiwan, Austria, Switzerland, and India.

Kijiji, which means “village” in Swahili, is one of five classifieds brands now being operated by eBay. The company also owns a 25 percent interest in Craig’s List –an opportunistic investment that eBay seems to have had little ability to leverage, since Craig’s List management keeps eBay at arm’s length.

eBay describes Kijiji as a “free, person-to-person local community classified site. You can use the site to post and find ads for electronics, furniture, jobs, cars, pets, services, housing and much more. Kijiji is simple to use, local, completely free, and lots of fun!”

On the U.S. site, which has launched in cities, multi-city listings are disallowed, and there is no backdoor ecommerce going on with PayPal or anything else. Users are also being limited to posting 25 ads a day.

When a zip code or city name is entered, a map instantly located the area. Other features include community and event listings– although neither seem to have been pre-populated for the launch.

There has, of course, been insider talk that eBay was working on using Kijijji as a classifieds supersite that would be an outgrowth of eBay Motors. Such a site would include services (i.e. oil changing), and be integrated with rich content, etc.

eBay, however, says it simply isn’t going in that direction. Jacob Agraou, eBay’s GM for classifieds, said at our Drilling Down on Local conference in March that at one point, eBay might have actually liked to have a single, super classifieds site. That, however, isn’t the way things have developed. And he indicated, maybe it is just as well. “We seek to enable opportunities, but we let the users choose what they want,” he said.

Agraou also said that the site has been built around how “we can leverage eBay. We leverage it a lot. It has similar usage.”

He added that while eBay continues to seek ways to serve local users, it is not going to do via a local, city guide-like platform. Instead, the company will remain focused on specific categories, (i.e. autos) which may have local components. “We’ll strive to enable local where it is appropriate,” he said. “We’re just starting to see what local can do.”

Agraou also noted that eBay is looking at its various classifieds sites as a front door for multi-media user generated content. In Japan, he noted that mobile phone users are sharing photos on Kijiji. In the U.K., users of the Gumtree service are playing “spot a celebrity.”

Meanwhile, eBay’s entry into free classifieds is being seen as a great validation of the classifieds marketplace. Between eBay’s entry and Facebook’s entry, classifieds are really heating up, says Oodle Co-founder and VP of Marketing Faith Sedlin. As an aggregator of classifieds from many sites, Oodle stands to benefit from any new developments.

Sedlin says that she views eBay’s entry as a big deal, especially having watched its overseas growth. “It’s very successful in France,” she notes. “eBay has a definite audience appeal.”

Sedlin also expects to see eBay work on leveraging its technology more with the site. She notes how eBay Motors provides lots of value add for its customers. For instance, it automatically downloads vehicle info when it receives a VIN #.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Not wishing to be seen as pedantic but the name is actually Kijiji. As you’ve stated it’s been around outside the US for some time and forms part of Ebay’s classified stable which includes Marktplaats in the Netherlands, Loquo in Spain and Gumtree in the UK.

    Although different in look and feel these are all at heart the same classified sites, brilliantly optimised for seach and certainly in the UK Ebay has spent a lot of money on PPC and traditional advertising.

    In some instances they’re making money as well – most notably on Marktplaats where anything advertised over a certain value attracts a small charge.

    The challenge of Kijiji / ebay in the US and elsewhere is can they attract a strong enough audience to enable them to monetise at least some of their listings?

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