EBay launches classified ads site

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SAN FRANCISCO -- EBay Inc. has launched a free classified advertising site in the United States, an experiment the online auction company says could lead to new sources of revenue.

Since February 2005, San Jose-based eBay has been operating an international classified forum called Kijiji, which means "village" in Swahili. The site allows users in more than two dozen countries to buy and sell goods and services that are difficult or impossible to ship or sell on eBay, such as baby-sitting services in Montreal or a leather recliner in Beijing.

EBay's U.S. classified site, which launched Friday, covers 220 cities in 50 states. Topics include "apartments for rent," "lost and found," "pet adoption" and "garage sales." It also includes personals sites such as "missing you," "just friends" and "activity partners."

In the U.S., the classified market is dominated by San Francisco-based Craigslist.org, which lists ads in more than 450 cities worldwide and gets more than 7 billion page views per month.

In August 2004, eBay purchased a 25% stake in Craigslist so it could learn about the online classified business, which e-commerce rivals Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. have invested heavily in.

EBay spokesman Hani Durzy said the company didn't launch the site with much fanfare and has no plans for mass marketing or advertising. Instead, eBay -- one of the biggest online advertisers -- will try to drive traffic to the site through keyword searches on Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and other huge sites.

Durzy emphasized that Kijiji in the United States will likely remain free for most users -- but eventually the company may charge for display ads or premium services.
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