Edgeio Edges Toward Launch--and a Clash with E-Commerce Giants?

Edgeio, the much-anticipated, secretive startup by onetime RealNames founder Keith Teare and TechCrunch blogger Mike Arrington, suddenly isn't so secret anymore. Although its
Rob Hof

Edgeio, the much-anticipated, secretive startup by onetime RealNames founder Keith Teare and TechCrunch blogger Mike Arrington, suddenly isn't so secret anymore. Although its "official" launch is weeks away, possibly Feb. 27--and the site is behind a password-protected wall--Teare spilled a lot of beans tonight at an SDForum online-classifieds event at the GooglePlex. ...

Clearly, Edgeio has more to tell, but what Teare did tell during the startup's first-ever public demo no doubt will get the attention of current powerhouses in Web commerce and classified ads, such as eBay and Craigslist.

Bear with me, since the demo was pretty quick and I'm not sure I caught everything exactly right. But essentially, Edgeio is doing just what its tagline says: gathering "listings from the edge"--classified-ad listings in blogs, and even online product content in newspapers and Web stores, and creating a new metasite that organizes those items for potential buyers.

The way Edgeio works is that bloggers would post items they want to sell right on their blogs, tagging them with the word "listing" (and eventually other descriptive tags). Then, Edgeio will pluck them as it constantly crawls millions of blogs looking for the "listing" tag and index them on Edgeio.com.

Also, Edgeio sends a trackback to the blog, providing a way for the blogger to go to Edgeio and modify the listing, adding other tags such as "autos" and other data that will further help the listing appeal to potential buyers.

Buyers get some interesting tools on Edgeio, too. You can search by geography, naturally. In fact, there's a cool slider that lets you zero in on a particular city. If there aren't enough listings, you can move the slider to a wider geographic area. Buyers also can filter listings by tag and see information on the blogger or publisher of the listing. Ultimately, buyers--if they choose to register as Edgeio members--can contact the seller directly by email.

Ad listing in blogs? Who does that? Today, almost nobody. And that's why this idea could work at all: Teare said the tag "listing" is found only about 10 times a day on millions of blogs, so it's an ideal, clean tag with which to create a unique index of "listings from the edge."

Edgeio also plans a reputation system. For now, there's a button for buyers to view the seller's eBay reputation, if she or he has one--big eBay "Powersellers" are an initial target here--but eventually Edgeio plans to embrace a more mobile reputation system.

Biz model? For one, Edgeio plans to charge Powersellers 25 cents a day to buy top positions on the page for their local listings. Later, Edgeio plans to run contextual ads, possibly Google's AdSense, to let local sellers run ads on the right column. And third, as prospective buyers subscribe to Edgeio RSS feeds for products they're interested in, those lists of prospects could be sold as qualified leads to sellers.

Although Teare's demo was on blogs, that doesn't appear to be the only target. He says this will work for single items on blogs all the way to millions of items from Web stores like Amazon. He contends that RSS feeds reduce the usefulness of centralized repositories of information--most big Web sites today, in other words. "EBays and Craigslists become unnecessary and the tolls they charge become unreasonable," he says.

Bet those companies will beg to differ. For that matter, not everyone at the event was so sure Teare was right about his notion that centralized databases have little value. And it may take a lot of marketing to get bloggers to post listings on their blogs and go to Edgeio to refine them.

But if the idea catches on, the Web's current giants--which have been disrupting traditional publishing, retail, and other industries--may face some disruption themselves.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.