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EBay vs Craigslist: A Name Change and Mobile for Kijiji

The one-way rivalry between eBay and its downtempo competitor, Craigslist, rumbles on. Although eBay owns a quarter of Craigslist, it has aspired for years to take over the classified site's userbase, sniffing that Craigslist is a stick-in-the-mud that doesn't deserve its popularity.

It only took eBay a year after acquiring its Craigslist share to strike the first blow by launching Kijiji, a free classified site, overseas in 2005. By 2007 eBay created an American version of Kijiji, then in 2008 it struck out at Craigslist, filing suit and alleging that the founders attempted to push it out. Craigslist returned fire, suggesting that eBay intended a hostile takeover or sale to another unfriendly company.

But beyond the lawsuit's back-and-forth, which drew plenty of media attention, Craigslist has not done much to win the fight. Not so eBay. The auction company has continued to push for growth with Kijiji, yesterday giving it name change to eBayClassifieds.com and adding a mobile application.

With mobile, eBay hopes that users will begin to prefer its classified site for their new ability to take pictures and instantly create listings. According to the Wall Street Journal, an initial user of the service found it "really easy and quick" -- an attribute that has always been the case for Craigslist, but not so much for eBay's sites.

Rid of its terrible name, and with new features, eBayClassifieds could finally have the advantage it needs over Craigslist. Of course, this isn't the first time it has thought so. For instance, Kijiji's top executive boasted to TechCrunch that it would soon by number one in the United States back in 2008.

Let's see how close it got:

Ouch! When I first wrote the line above describing eBay's conflict with Craigslist as a "one-way rivalry", I had eBay's aggressive maneuvering toward passive Craigslist in mind; I hadn't looked at the traffic numbers yet. But seeing the Craigslist's traffic advantage gives another meaning to the phrase, no?

It may be that Craigslist has one thing that eBay can't take away, or generate on its own: an almost unlimited supply of good-will from its users. Most people who use Craigslist know that its founder, Craig Newmark, operates the company almost like a philanthropic venture, and Craigslist has become deeply embedded in the cities and communities where it operates.

On the other hand, eBay has often attracted the animus of its users and played the goon when it filed suit against Craigslist; PayPal, its second-largest business, attracts even more ire. As a marketing executive might say, positioning is everything. So if the current round of efforts doesn't work out, eBay may want to start thinking about how to revive its brand's good name.

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