Classifieds site Oodle announced today that it will re-invent the Facebook Marketplace as a "social" market in which users can buy and sell with friends and community members. The new Oodle-powered classifieds are slated to launch in the first quarter of 2009, according to Oodle CEO Craig Donato. Marketplace will retain its existing look and feel, but function more like Oodle's own site.
Oodle, the second largest online classifieds listing service in the US, will now run the marketplaces of both Facebook and MySpace. But Donato doesn't see Oodle as a double-agent: "They'll be completely different marketplaces, because they're different communities," he says, noting that the MySpace version, which is live now, will receive an incremental re-design over the coming months.
The two rival networks have come to Oodle for what Donato calls a combination of "powerful vision and infrastructure." Oodle operates on the principle that classifieds sales can benefit from pre-existing personal connections between buyers and sellers, just like those fostered on Facebook. "If you sell a car on Craigslist, you can have an anonymous person show up to your house to test drive your car. For a lot of people, that's uncomfortable," he says. "If you use a social network, you can perform what I call the weirdo-filter," he adds, choosing a buyer from your school, town or amongst your friends.
Oodle also caters to sellers looking to unload items without concern for winning top dollar, like parents giving away their children's old toys, or people who are wary of spamming their friends with a mass email about the item they want to sell. Donato says he foresees the two marketplaces carrying different types of merchandise. "MySpace will probably see a lot of music stuff like tickets and gigs," he says, while Facebook's items will reflect its slightly older usership.
Still hazy are users' right to privacy in the new Facebook Marketplace. The concept of "social" classifieds raises questions of divulgence: will users be able to list items anonymously, or restrict certain friends from seeing their item? "We've not yet decided on the level of privacy," says Donato. Undoubtedly eager to avoid another Beacon debacle, Facebook will have to tread carefully if its Oodle-powered marketplace is to succeed.