Thursday, December 01, 2005

Microsoft Tests Free Classifieds


Microsoft Tests Free Classifieds

by Shankar Gupta, Thursday, Dec 1, 2005 6:30 AM EST

TWO WEEKS AFTER GOOGLE UNVEILED its classified service, Microsoft has started testing its own upcoming free classifieds site, code-named "Fremont."

The release of the competing classifieds services comes at a time when the popularity of online listings sites is skyrocketing. According to research released last week by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and comScore Networks, more than 26.3 million people visited online the top 15 classified sites in September 2005--an 80 percent increase over the same period last year.

Microsoft's Fremont--which was first revealed on the Techcrunch Blog, authored by Michael Arrington--is intended as a classifieds play, but will also integrate with many of the company's upcoming Windows Live offerings. "It is more than just a classifieds service: you can post information you'd like to share with your social network--it integrates with Virtual Earth and aids in the discovery of items via search, MSN Alerts, integration with WL Messenger, WL Spaces, MSN Shopping, and other Windows Live and MSN assets," said a spokeswoman for MSN.

Google Base, on the other hand, is simply a database, into which any sort of information can be uploaded--from apartment or job listings to recipes for Chicken Tikka Masala. Although the search giant hasn't touted it as a classifieds offering, many of the pre-created information fields in the database relate to major classifieds categories: Number of bedrooms for apartment listings, or education required for job postings, for example.

Kelsey Group Analyst Greg Sterling said that Microsoft and Google appear to be going about providing online listings in different ways, adding that Microsoft's service seems to have been designed more specifically for classifieds, while Google's is designed for broader content. "Both Google and Microsoft recognize it as important," he said. "What Google has done is create a content upload system without really creating a user experience, but Microsoft has created a more conventional user experience."

Jupiter Research Analyst Gary Stein added that Microsoft might have a slight edge in the classifieds race, since Google Base isn't being specifically touted as a listings service.


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