November 30, 2004

tribeslist

There's been a remarkable transformation over at Tribe.net over the past few months. First take a look at the craigslist.org home page:

And now take a look at the homepage of tribe.net:

Tribe's message seems to be loud and clear: we're taking on Craigslist. City after city, category after category . . . I mean, check out the jobs listings. Exact same entries, it's like you're looking at a redesigned Craigslist.

Which is maybe what they're trying to do. After all, one of Craigslist's chief weaknesses is, in my humble opinion, their inability to innovate quickly. I believe this is by choice: you'll hear Craig say over and over again that their 14 employees spend almost all of their time doing customer service. Craigslist has seemingly eschewed additional outside funding, not to mention partnering with other technology companies to enhance its service offerings. There seems to be a "not invented here" mindset at Craigslist. Not only that, but a "we'll invent it when we get around to it" mindset to go with it. Problem is, if customer service (and general nurturing of the community) is king, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, what happens when competition comes along with an obsession for innovation? What happens if they start chipping away at the customer base? Will Craigslist be able to maintain its dominant position?

Tribe seems to be trying to catch up to Craigslist in terms of feature set, and then add to it in droves by making it a social network as well as a classified ads service. But Tribe doesn't have anywhere near the legendary street/customer cred that Craigslist has rightly earned over many years.

Like eBay, Craigslist has very very loyal users. And a huge head start: just look at those category totals for the SF Bay Area version of Craigslist. 70,885 items for sale. 10,989 job listings. 47,636 personals listings. 21,918 housing listings. Compare to Tribe: 157 items for sale (yikes!), 186 housing listings (eek!), 3531 jobs (hmm, not bad!).

Where will Tribe be in six months? Will it catch up to Craigslist in jobs listings, clearly Tribe's strongest category? I think it will take more than six months. Hiring managers and HR departments everywhere know about Craigslist. The same can't be yet said for Tribe.

One thing's for certain: 2005 is going to be a very, very interesting year for these two sites . . . and for the newspaper industry which they're steadily eroding. When will we see a major U.S. newspaper chain buy a social network or a Craigslist? I bet we'll see such a deal in 2005.

Posted by brian at November 30, 2004 09:47 AM

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