Hands-on with Facebook Marketplace

The social networking site launches its Craigslist-like classifieds service.

Facebook's new "Marketplace" classifieds feature launched quietly this weekend, giving the social networking site's members the ability to post Craigslist-like ads and make them visible to their friends and "networks" (which, if you aren't familiar with Facebook, are based around regions, high schools and colleges, and companies). I gave it a quick run-through to test it out; here's what I found.

When you click on Marketplace, which is accessible by a link in the left sidebar (along with other Facebook staples like photos, groups, and notes) you are directed to the Marketplace homepage for your primary network, with tabs where you can navigate to the corresponding pages for your other networks if you're in more than one. In the image below, you can see the CNET network is the one displayed; I also have access to listings from my former university's network and to the NYC network. The interface is more or less just like the rest of Facebook--blue and white, without much clutter.

The interface for Facebook Marketplace. Facebook

Read on after the jump...

When you post a listing, you first have to select whether you're listing something or listing that you want something. Then, within that, you can select a category (items for sale, housing, jobs, everything else) and a sub-category within that category. In the "For Sale" category, for example, it's divided into college-student-friendly sub-categories of books, tickets, electronics, furniture, and everything else. You can add multiple photos, too.

No, there is no category for seeking dates. You'll have to choose "other" for that. Also noticeably missing was a category for stuff that's being given away for free; I suppose you can put "$0" into a "for sale" item to do that, but it'd be nice to be able to differentiate.

As with other Facebook features, privacy settings are admirably flexible. You can select whether you want the listing to be displayed under the Marketplace page for one or more of the networks you belong to, whether to display the listing in your profile so your friends can see it, and whether to make it publicly visible to Facebook members outside of your networks. As a test, I decided to put Webware's Josh Lowensohn up for sale (for $50! A total steal!) and make it visible only to Facebook members within the CNET network.

I'm selling Josh. Any takers? Facebook
Listing displayed in a Mini-Feed. Facebook

The announcement that I'd put Josh up for sale is now displayed in the "Mini-Feed" in my profile, though only members of the CNET network can see it because those were the privacy settings I selected.

I should also note that (thankfully) you can search all listings that are visible to you; you can also filter all available Marketplace entries so that it only displays listings that were posted by people on your friends list.

So, is this a Craigslist killer? I'm quite confident that it won't come close. Even though there are "housing" and "jobs" categories, this is really not the place to sell a house or find a full-time position. This is where you post a listing to see if any of your friends, classmates, or co-workers might want to bartend a party for you, lend you a backpack for a trip, or hire you to help with some moving. It's for smaller stuff, and chances are good that you'll be buying and selling from people who you know (or who are at least peers).

I'm making this assumption partially based on the format of Marketplace, which makes it more conducive to short, quickly-written posts rather than well-thought-out descriptions of exactly what you're looking for; and partially because of Facebook's network-centric infrastructure that makes listings visible only to a select group--contrast that with Craigslist's public nature. As a result, I don't think Facebook Marketplace is going to really eat into Craigslist's market share. Where it could do damage, however, is within college campuses--student newspaper classifieds, as well as student agencies (for example, ones that buy back and resell dorm furniture or textbooks).

It is, however, simple and unobtrusive enough so that it might really catch on among Facebook members. So, now, anybody want to buy Josh?

About the author

Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.

 

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