What do you do if you already own a stake in Craigslist, but yearn for a bigger slice of the online-classified pie? If you're eBay, you launch a U.S. version of Kijiji
, with the hope of rivaling the San Francisco-based market leader.
Already well known internationally, Kijiji launched in China in 2005, and currently does business in 27 countries. In terms of unique visitors, it is the most trafficked site in Canada, Germany, Italy, and Taiwan, according to eBay communications manager Jose Mallabo.
Kijiji, which launched in the U.S. earlier this month, has a relatively simple interface and a wide range of categories. The similarities aren't accidental: eBay purchased a 25 percent stake in Craigslist so "we could learn how to do this," says Mallabo. He adds that the new site is more user-friendly than the market leader, requiring only two pages to post an item for sale, versus up to seven pages on Craigslist.
Kijiji and its corporate parent won't interact on a technology level, but the two sites will complement each another. "Let's say you want to put a mattress on eBay," says Mallabo. "You can also list it locally on Kijiji. So this is on a more grass-roots level."
On some of its overseas sites, Kijiji charges posters or allows users to pay $1 fee to bump up a listing to the top of a page. The U.S. site hasn't ruled out charging users for listing certain items, according to Mallabo.
What does the management at Craigslist think of Kijiji? Largely due to its decision to forgo traditional web advertising, the 12-year-old market leader has already become the go-to place for listers, publishing 17 million classifieds every month and generating a reported $25 million in revenue last year. In an email to Newsquake, Craigslist CEO and President Jim Buckmaster said he is unfazed by Kijiji's entrance into the marketplace.
"We generally don't think in terms of competition, or concern ourselves with what other companies are doing," wrote Buckmaster. "Certainly there are hundreds if not thousands of companies offering online classifieds."
Meanwhile, users are slowly discovering Kijiji. "It's something different," says Kevin Emerson, a Los Angeles resident looking to sell his Buick Centurion
. A friend recommended the site to Emerson, who says he had previously posted the car for six weeks on Craigslist, but had received no offers. It takes less time to post on Kijiji than on Craiglist, says Emerson. But has he gotten any offers on that car? Not yet, he says.