Edgeio and the distributed world

I got a preview of Michael Arrington’s Edgeio — the classified system for the distributed future — and I think it is more important than it looks.

Edgeio as it stands is pretty simple: You tag a post on your blog “listing” and Edgeio will spot it and add it to its data base. You add more tags (e.g., “for rent” and “vacation”) and your post/ad will appear in the appropriate categories. Edgeio will allow you to come in and claim your blog to be able to get direct communication from respondents and, eventually, to upgrade your ad via typography and graphics and preference (I hope I got that right). This is just a start but it is a proof of concept of a new world. I’ve been waiting for someone to do this. Arrington has.

I’ve been writing for a long time that the future of classified advertising — and more of media — is distributed. That is, you won’t need to go to a centralized marketplace — the newspaper or even Craigslist or Monster — to let the world know you want to sell or buy or find something. Instead, you’ll be able to put your listing up anywhere with proper tags and then specialized search engines, like Edgeio and Oodle, will find them so buyer and seller can find each other in a distributed marketplace with far less friction and far more control at the edges.

Note well that Arrington is also setting the early standards for tagging ads so they can be found. I believe that he also needs to concentrate on putting data within ads, not just on top of them (e.g., “languages spoken = German, C++”) so more effective searches and matches can take place. Google Base may do this, but for it to be effective, the tags need to be open. What we’re really headed for is microformats and a structure in which people swarm around tags with efficiency so they and their stuff can be found. It works in Flickr and Del.icio.us and will certainly work in marketplaces where money matters.

As friction is taken out of the marketplace — as newspapers, Realtors, car dealers, eBay, and others who have controlled our information are undercut by free and open standards — there is a need to add value back into transactions. Craig Donato of Oodle — the other Craig, the one who will cause more change in the newspaper industry than the first one — is eloquent on this, pointing out that the marketplace still wants such things as anonymity to enable transactions and authority to vet ads and promotion to market them. Edgeio and Oodle — not to mention Indeed and Simply Hired and even eBay and many other comers — will try to add back some of these functions. I argued the other day that we will also need some physical-world functions, like concierges to handle house tours for far less than real-estate agents charge (cue defense wailing by Realtors here.)

: OK, but this is bigger than classifieds. It’s bigger in two ways:

: First, this is really about control. Realtors and multiple-listing services act as if they own our for-sale listings. But the truth is, that’s our information; it’s data we create and we own that we lend to these agents if they perform a service for us (or because they hold a monopoly on that service today).

I was talking about this with Seth Goldstein of AttentionTrust and Rootmarkets the other day: We own not just our attention data — what we look at, what we do, the things that Seth works in — but also have an even greater proprietary interest in the transactions we create. This holds if we are a prospect to buy a house and if we are selling a house.

The natural state of the marketplace should be that we control that information at the edges — buyer and seller — and that others join in that transaction only when and if they add value, such as the functions I listed just above. This will make for less friction and a more efficient marketplace.

It will also make for a lot of unemployed middlemen. The newspapers and Realtors that charged us too much for too little for too long will be knocked aside at the first opportunity.

: Second, this is also about content … and about people. Everything Edgeio does for classified ads, it — or someone — could do for, say, local restaurant reviews. Rather than relying on one restaurant critic for a paper to tell us what’s good and rather than trying to get all the diners out there to come to a centralized marketplace of reviews (see the late Abuzz et al), we should be able to write our reviews on our blogs, under our identities, and have them found with all the other reviews. That can occur thanks to tagging. This is what I hoped (incorrectly) that Dinnerbuzz would do, though I explained my wishes here.

It’s about people because identity matters: We want to know who is reviewing the restaurant or selling the house or seeeking the job. Verified identity and trust, I believe, will be the next huge frontier of business online. More on that later.

And it’s about people because such means of tagging and searching as Edgeio enables will also help people find each other. I wrote about this long ago, inspired by David Galbraith’s one-line-bio tag. See also Consumating.org, where people tag themselves.

See, this tagging thing is about more than bookmarks and coolness. They help reorganize the world and its relationships.

That’s why I say that Edgeio is a big deal, because it begins to enable this new world.

: A few of my posts are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here….

: [DISCLOSURE: Michael Arrington and I are each aiding a startup. I gave him my two-cents about Edgeio. He once gave me a Techcrunch T-shirt. We link to each other. He held a spot for me at the lunch table at Web 2.0 And aren’t these disclosure statements getting a bit ridiculous?]

: SPEAKING OF TECHCRUNCH: I see that Arrington will critique presentations by 10 companies at Supernova.

: LATER: Note good comments, including one from none other than Craig Newmark.

  • Jim Wilson

    jj>And aren’t these disclosure statements getting a bit ridiculous?

    No, they’re not ridiculous, Jeff. They’re still important.

  • Yes, Jim, of course, they’re important. But I’m seeing some ridiculous ones around. In this world, disclosing friendship is redundant.

  • While everyone always says they like to get rid of the middleman having all interactions be directly vendor to customer creates some new issues.

    The best example is ebay. They claim they do not participate in the transactions so are not liable for any fraud or misrepresentation by the parties. But, what has happened is that users have gotten burned frequently enough that they have started to form vigilante groups to police the site. There are even several law suits pending which aim at forcing ebay to take some responsibility for their auctions.

    In a standard auction, run by a well-known firm, there are guarantees and filters against misrepresentation. So there is a service being performed by the middleman. Similarly with real estate brokers. Perhaps the issue is not that these middlemen exist, but that they had no real competition and thus were able to boost their fees to unreasonable levels.

    Putting a “for sale” sign on your lawn is not effective, but being able to post online may be. The former was no threat to the agents, but the second may force them to earn their fees.

  • So we won’t just post the item to Craigslist, we’ll

    – post it *somewhere* else. (on our blogs? Wha huh? Here’s my take on the Cheney hunting accident, and by the way, my 1997 minivan is for sale)
    – tag it correctly (can my mom do this?)
    – go to Edgeio to make the ad “pretty” (although all the Web 1.0 winners were the ones who made things usable — the pretty ones all failed)

    And we won’t go to Craigslist to look for classifieds to buy things, we’ll go to Edgeio, because…


    …because nobody will really use it, and getting them to is an unsurmountable marketing problem. The whole thing is actually built to be sold to a larger player such as Yahoo! or Google, who can roll it into their own services.

    That’s my SWAG. BTW I can remember 5 kinds of shampoo, 30 different blog names,… and fewer than 3 different Web 2.0 brands. Names like “edgeio” are to 2006 what “swoosh logos” were to 1999.


    Sorry to be snarky about this one. I’m sure they are doing actual, good work and not just using up the first round of financing.


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  • Jeff, I think that the vision behind Edgeio is fantastic. The notion that we can successfully establish buyer/seller relationships in a decentralized fashion would most definitely be a dream come true. Although I believe that, ultimately, the market tends to drive computing to “the edge,” it is not always as simple as it sounds. There are a number of issues that Mike and the Edgeio team have to face surrounding: distributed trust, quality of results, versioning, ease of use, etc. Many of these issues are the reasons why the centralized approach has won out to date. That being said, if folks can solve an appropriate subset of these issues such that the service can still be of value, the ballgame will have changed. Either way, I think that Mike should be commended for trying to do something bold and interesting.

  • PSGInfinity

    Jeff, thank you for disclosing! Yes, yes, yes, it’s still important. It helps us understand the connections, that all-important currency for the new millenium. In your case, it helps us understand just how (un?)plugged in you’ve become, and that’s really cool. And it helps us see your emrging role as a Pied Piper for the Web 2.5…

  • Hey, I think this idea is really good, and maybe I can learn from them.

    I act as full time customer service rep, there’s a few of us, only a few, because with flagging, our community removes most questionable ads.

    Using the tagging approach, how are bogus ads removed? Considering that spam blogs are already a huge problem, and how easy it’ll be to falsely tag viagra ads, the volume of bad ads will be tremendous.

    That will also be true of blogs that do things like tagging photos that you’d prefer not to see, but they’d be in search results anyway. (You really don’t want to know.)

    Also, how will ads be removed (by the poster) or expired?

    When there’re other problems, like defamation, how are they handled?

    I’m guessing that many customer service reps will be needed, good jobs, but then,
    you risk being a “publisher” which means that you have to monitor ads.

    I could sure use continuing help on these, just glad our problems are far smaller in this context.


  • interesting stuff, and i agree that microcontent publishing / aka “edge-publishing” has some potential.

    at the same time, Craig’s right that “spam ads” and other ad monitoring & authority issues are problems that remain to be solved in an edge-publishing world. i’m not sure Edgeio has everything figured out in this regard, but i’m willing to grant them a reasonable doubt they can try & figure out some options in the next year. keith & team seem like smart guys.

    a few ways to do this could be:
    a) charge a small fee for listings (or perhaps “no waiting period” listings)
    b) borrow some existing method of reputation to help with filtering
    c) implement your own method of reputation to help do filtering

    (note: in option a, i’m not suggesting the same classified ad ‘charge-for-listing’ model, rather perhaps just a small fee of $.10-25 to filter out garbage listings — you don’t have to use fees to filter, however cash is a decent proxy for reputation)

    all challenges aside, i think it’s unlikely all new marketplaces for listings other than eBay or Craigslist will fail. there is plenty of room for innovation — but the real issues are around scale and reputation. whether or not the technology works isn’t nearly as hard as making your site known as *THE* eyeball destination for people looking for new items (amazon), used items (ebay), local items (craigslist), houses, cars, personals, jobs, etc. that either comes from a large vertical or horizontal community, or a feature set that’s so compelling it creates a name for itself. (note: not so easy — eBay existed on a very, very ugly / rudimentary interface for a LONG time… and craigslist still keeps it very basic & simple).

    i also don’t see the implementation method being everyone manually tagging items on blogs. there will obviously have to be a more seamless & scalable approach for the masses. still, that’s quite doable and not a huge obstacle.

    the technology for edge-publishing is very reasonable. however, the primary challenges still remain:
    1) how to filter out spam listings?
    2) how to implement reputation?
    3) how to establish edgeio (or other would-be startups) as a brand-memorable eyeball destinations?

    if edgeio can figure out how to solve those issues, then they might just have a business opportunity. however, there may be a good bit of time spent figuring out how to solve the spam & reputation issues before it gets off the ground.

    – dave mcclure

  • I don’t see it. And Dave is right Spam will be impossible to weed out effectively, without significant consumer buy-in.

  • Craig, thanks for choosing this venue for a discussion.

    You tell us

    “I act as full time customer service rep, there’s a few of us, only a few, because with flagging, our community removes most questionable ads.”

    edgeio has flags that the community can set too (spam, tag spam, fake identity and end of item). I agree, this is the right approach. Have you actually looked at edgeio yet? If not the password is “laguna”. Please look. It’s a lot better than you imagine.

    You then ask:

    “Using the tagging approach, how are bogus ads removed? Considering that spam blogs are already a huge problem, and how easy it’ll be to falsely tag viagra ads, the volume of bad ads will be tremendous. ”

    We have a couple of methods beyond community flagging. The first is that we have a “claim your blog” process whereby we authenticate a publisher. We always point to this blog, and the original post. Publishers wh go through this process are rewarded by having their listings appear above anonymous listings, in reverse chronological order. In the future we will introduce a small fee – 25c or so – whereby edgeio members (authenticated publishers basically) will be able to push their items above the regular members listings, again in reverse chronological order. So anonymous listings will be pushed further down. We will, in response to community flagging, suspend the mebership of spammers. We have other means of controlling spam but for now I guess this is enough.

    I’m not sure I would have taken the “glass half empty” approach if I was you. I love Craigs List, but edgeio is attempting a different thing, self-published classifieds. Millions of “good citizens” will be able to self-publish. The few bad guys shouldn’t be used as a reason to deny this new behaviour. We also have a “bottoms up” approach to taxonomy and to geography that is really quite different to CraigsList. Our taxonomy is user generated. Good actors will always outweigh bad actors if millions of people are involved, and we are pretty confident that we can trust good data to emerge from this. Geography is handled by a process where we have geo-coded 3.5m cities worldwide. Any city can become a marketplace, simply through a small number of people publishing listings on their blogs. The idea of “launching” cities, top-down, seems way less cool by comparison. edgeio will be able to allow publishers to self-create markets for any “thing” in any “place”, worldwide. Clearly that’s different to CraigsList also.

    You then ask:

    “Also, how will ads be removed (by the poster) or expired?”

    Our publishers all have the ability to flag a post as “completed”. Our community of readers has the ability to flag a post as “no longer current”. As with Craigs List we show results in reverse chronological order, so posts will also degrade gracefully through time.

    Dave McClure says some smart things. I agree with his assessment:

    “the technology for edge-publishing is very reasonable. however, the primary challenges still remain:
    1) how to filter out spam listings?
    2) how to implement reputation?
    3) how to establish edgeio (or other would-be startups) as a brand-memorable eyeball destinations?”

    We came up with our own list of challenges on the edgeio blog: here.

    We have a view on all 3. We are currently 4 full time people and 3 contractors. When I initially came up with the idea 15 months ago it was jusy an idea. Now have an implementation. The first job, to get to this stage, is complete. I personally look forward to engaging with the community over the next years to do a good job in all of these other areas. And Craig, I’d love to sit down over a beer and walk you through our thinking. FWIW, we have never characterized ourselves as CriagsList killers, or for that matter EBay killers. Don’t believe the hype! Reality is much more interesting :-)

  • Oops. forgot 2 things:

    1. I am the founder and CEO of edgeio. keith at edgeio dot com.
    2. We encourage 3rd parties to use API’s to re-publish edgeio data on their sites.


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  • Underworld wrote:
    > So we won’t just post the item to Craigslist, we’ll [snip]

    You seem to think it’s an either/or, zero sum proposition. It’s not. The vast majority of people who use Craigslist, eBay etc. will continue to use Craigslist & Co.

    As a soon-to-launch publisher, I’m more interested in the idea of being able to put classifieds on my site without having the dreaded ghost town effect – a bunch of categories and no listings. So I’ll tap into Edgeio or Oodle or whatever as a source of traffic and a source of listings.

    If I have a site about, say, how to build furniture, it’s a slam-dunk to offer classifieds for power tools. My users can of course still go to eBay, but where I add value is in recommending what kind of power tools to buy. The aggregators add value by, well, aggregating. People won’t come to my site because of the classifieds listings, but they may stay as a result of them.

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  • Emma

    I just don’t think this will work. There’s one huge problem and its called network effects. blogs are not mainstream.

  • Folks… why don’t we drop the term “blog” when talking about the “somewhere” that will feed Edgeio… it just clouds the issue. We’re talking about database change feed. From this introduction (thanks Jeff), I see Edgeio as a distributed database aggregator. Every seller will have their own database of products. They will provide a feed that exposes updates that they make to their data. Edgeio will slurp up the feeds, slice and dice them and make them available to use in interesting ways.

    I had this idea awhile back (5 years ago, there’s a sob story for you) and never did anything about it. But it looks like the time is right now, and Michael Arrington might just pull it off.

  • For those with blogging knowledge, such as myself, this is great.

    The only problem I see with it’s ease of use for those who aren’t as computer literate.

    Back when I was testing, the way we learned to write reproduction steps was to ask if our Grandmother could do it.

    I think the Grandmother case applies easily to Craigslist and Ebay. I’m not so sure about Edgeio’s case.

  • One characteristic of successful markets is that they form where there is a density of buyers and sellers that reaches a critical mass and then the network effect kicks in and the market can broaden out from its “home base” hoovering up adjacent markets.

    Craigslist started in San Francisco, got well established in a very localized community and then broadened out across the major cities of the USA. eBay got initial density in a few categories like collectibles and antiques, and broadened out into motors and international etc.

    By density, I mean the effect that a buyer looking for something actually finds some of that thing for sale, and a seller actually sells what they are offering when they first try to use the market. If people don’t get immediate success in a market people try once and move on. Whether its beanie babies or refridgerators something has to get a buzz going that bootstraps the market.

    So if Edgeio starts off with people who have blogs, with random stuff they want to sell, diffused over many geographies and categories, it seems like a low density proposition. Given that there are already many good markets to sell random stuff, on http://www.eBay.com, http://www.craigslist.com (or http://www.kijiji.com for non-english speakers), what is the category that could boostrap a new market for the community of the blogorati?

    Disclosure – I work for eBay…

  • I made a few comments recently about Adam Green’s recent concerns about Edgeio and it’s complexity gradient.

    I do worry that all of these things are several years or more ahead of their time.



  • dan

    I just don’t think this will work. There’s one huge problem and its called network effects. blogs are not mainstream.

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  • Anonymous

    Jeff, with all due respect, this is looking like yet another edgeio hyping post. Isn’t it enough already? :) Hype is fine, but lets drink a dose of reality as well. I saw one good one here – http://www.jdamer.com/archive/edgeioverhyped.html
    I see some problems that no one is questioning and that is really surprising.

    (1) My buddy can create an engine to search all blogs with tag=lisitngs in a few days. Oh, and Technorati may be able to do that in a few hours.

    (2) This will be a spam heaven in no time and its tough to believe it can be handled in any way in the current model. You cant really rely on a community to flag spam when spam makes up 90% of the listings.

    (3) There are tons of classified ads on the internet today on ebay, craigslist and so on. Why shouldn’t they be leveraged instread. Are they asking all that critical mass of classifieds creators to start a new blog and post the listing there? Do they believe this is possible? Or is edgeio wanting to create a new classifieds marketplace where bloggers post? Do bloggers have the time to post classified ads? I don’t blog so I dont know, but I thought they were passionate about writing and not posting ads or anything else.

    (4) I am not sure if I agree with Keith’s idea that good listings with outweight bad ones. If you see even the blogosphere today, there are more spam blogs than good ones. There are more spam emails in this world than good ones. We cannot avoid or overlook this reality.

    (5) Also the claim your blog is not an easy thing to understand for anyone outside the blogosphere. I dont understand it honeslty and I have fre friends who do. Again if a new “classifieds by bloggers” is imagined then this is cool.

    (6) An important thing I dont seem to understand is why crawl all the blogs in the world when eventually the “good publishers” hvae to identify themselves and only then take advantage of advertising and other features. Why not just announce the launch with a seed of bloggers, thne build the hype they did, and signup only bloggers who come and register their blogs. Won’t this be cleaner?

    (7) “Note well that Arrington is also setting the early standards for tagging ads so they can be found. ” – this sounds really lofty. whats the big deal in asking bloggers to tag their posts with listings?

    I don’t mean to sound blunt by asking the questions above, but the hype is really surprising and its frustrating to see respected bloggers join the hype without thinking about these basic questions. Craig Newmark has been really mild above I think. I am sure he understands that classifieds business really well, and better than most.

  • outstanding overview and contextualization. i was attempting to explain this to my wife over dinner last night. having lived with a geek for nearly 20 years, she was all, “yeah, just sounds like another online gadget thing that normal people will never have a use for.” but i was like, “no, honey, this is ONE OF THE BIG DEALS like when gopher:// gave way to http:// … believe me, the Edgeio Effect isn’t one to ignore.” — Terminology “Edgeio Effect” by metavalent, Creative Commons Attribution 2.5. Hey, don’t give me a hard time … the BuzzMachine above all should validate the importance of a BuzzWord/Phrase that really works! :)

  • I just checked out edgeio, and it looks great. I think Arrington is really onto something with the aggregation of self published ads. The problem as has already been mentioned is spam and irrelevance. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately on how to make tagging more relevant and preventing spam. I think it can be done a lot easier than email because we know where feed posts are coming from. If a feed gets flagged enough, then that whole feed could be considered spam so a black list for feeds could be created and used by other aggregators.

    Also, I’ve written a post about tag ranking here:

    which discusses being able to rank tags to make posts more relevant for a particular tag.

    I’ve been experimenting with this idea at http://www.rel8r.com and I’d love to work with others in the community, so if anyone is interested in discussing or working on this, please feel free to contact me at treeder -a – t – gmail.com

  • I just wanted to share my observation that I never read or follow trackbacks on blogs… I read comments.

    If this is not just me… this may mean that people tend to disregard contextual “relatedness” if it is not “backed” by identifiable human presence and intentions related to the specific conversation. It seems that the “investment” of attention necessary to contribute a comment to a specific conversation rules over the seemingly obvious power of the machine enabled “write once – publish everywhere” mechanisms.

    This may not be so important for classifieds though…

  • EMIL: i think you hit upon an important distinction. after all, this whole web 2.0, et al, thingie is about figuring out the Attention Economy and creating useful tools for people to participate. you are right that a human context is a key factor in ascribing value to content and ideas; however, classified advertising is somewhat of an exception because it’s less about ideas and more about a particular kind of activity. due to it’s historical and well accepted role as an indexed catch-all bin, of sorts, the evolution of this type of tagging may find it’s sweet spot in this niche. it’ll be fun to see how it all turns out, that’s for sure. ESPECIALLY if edgeio can put GOOG on edge!

    “Google: Evil is as Evil Does” – metavalent.

  • Jeff, I’ve been studying edge aggregators and distributed media for a while now. I’ve also been exploring how mainstream users (read: non-bloggers) might get their data into such a system. I put up a post today that outlines how this might happen:

    FeedXS – An Early Edge Feeder?

  • The thought behind edgeio is clearly that this is easier – but with all of the steps that need to be taken on the site (claiming, refining, cancelling, completing) why not just do everything directly from the site? Edgeio is ahead of its time, and I think it is a powerful usage of blogs, but the extra steps needed (at this point) leave little reason for someone to make the switch from CraigsList or Ebay – especially since they are mainstream and have way more people viewing their posts.

    It’s a very intriguing concept, but switching costs are higher than Edgeio thinks. I hope more implementations of useful bogging come from this, but I don’t think this is the best thing since sliced bread, which seems to be the blogosphere attitude.

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  • Charlie

    Doesn’t seem all that interesting.

    Why would I want to post an ad on my blog?

    I know why people will not say its a lame. They dont want to upset the techcrunch writer. Perhaps, if you dont praise your service wont get a good rating.

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  • Everything that Keith pointed out will help the spam issue (not so different from eBay! so I do think it will work). . . the problem is that these solves will, ironically, reduces the value of the site because edgeio will be aggreagating from (or atleast give preference to) the “core” (like Oodle) rather than the “edge.” In essense, Edgeio will become a walled garden with registered users, and highly verified users owning most of its inventory. . . and edge listings having a secondary placement that buyers are rarely exposed to. Leveraging the edge to build a walled garden is the same approach Google is taking (natural vs. paid placement), striking a balance will be hard if not impossible. . . given the spam issue forcing edgeio back into the core and away from the edge . . .

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  • Jeb

    Suggestion: to increase the density, Edgio needs to integrate with other markets.

    Make an import utility that allows a blogger to import their ad from Craigslist (and eBay) and re-post it on their blog with proper tags. Judy’s Book does something like this.

    CL & Edgio are not “either/or”. Recognize the fact that most people will still use Craiglist and eBay, but make it as easy as possible for them to link their ad to their blog, and by extension, Edgio too.

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  • James

    I read every comment (I too mostly ignore trackbacks), and I have to say that Will [see quote below], in my opinion, cut through all the tech-babble and over-intellectualizing and told the truth about what Edgeio really is. It’s a backwards entry into a wall-garden play based on an “elite” group of opt-in bloggers that want to sell stuff. Not that this is a bad thing, but it’s certainly not introducing a disruptive technology/model that benefits bloggers in a way that is necessarily better than what they have available to them today.

    “will Says:
    …the problem is that these solves will, ironically, reduces the value of the site because edgeio will be aggreagating from (or atleast give preference to) the “core” (like Oodle) rather than the “edge.” In essense, Edgeio will become a walled garden with registered users, and highly verified users owning most of its inventory. . . and edge listings having a secondary placement that buyers are rarely exposed to. Leveraging the edge to build a walled garden is the same approach Google is taking (natural vs. paid placement), striking a balance will be hard if not impossible. . . given the spam issue forcing edgeio back into the core and away from the edge…”

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  • Sara

    Let’s say I make a listing on my blog, and tag it with all the necessary tags…I would still probably end up going to edgio just to check and see if it picked up my listing and how it displayed/ranked it, so I just don’t see the point. The way I see it, sellers will still end up going to edgio to check on their listings, so what is the point of making the listing on your blog when you’re just gonna end up going to edgio anyway? You might as well just go direct to edgio to make your listing in the first place, oh wait….that’s how ebay/craigslist does it now. Dang!

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  • Jon

    i run a blog and I don’t want to crap it up with an ad and listing tag. you would think a guy who lives in a web20 bubble (the tech crunch dude) would know a bad idea when he sees one.

    From what i understand this tech crunch dude looks at new sites and gives his opinion- i think. He gives advice too. Yeaks!

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