July 23rd, 2009

Internet Garage Sale: The trust of Twitter, the auctions of eBay, the design of Craigslist

Internet Garage Sale: The trust of Twitter, the auctions of eBay, the design of Craigslist

Creeped out by Craigslist? Tired of haggling with faceless trolls on eBay? Looking for somewhere where you can unload your crap valuable stuff to your friends or your friends’ friends?

Then Internet Garage Sale, the latest project from Steven Frank—cofounder of Portland-based Panic—may be for you. If you can get an invite.

But even if you can’t, Steven still has a really interesting story to tell.

You see, it all started out with this gadget addiction.

As a gadget hound, I accumulate tons of tech that I eventually need to get rid of to fund the purchase of newer tech. Tired of Craigslist and eBay, I put up a static HTML page with a few items, and asked people on Twitter to check it out and place bids if interested.

Turns out, it worked so well, that Steven wanted to find a way to formalize it. But the existing auction or “garage sale” constructs left him wanting.

eBay is very good at getting your listing in front of millions and millions of people. You are very likely to sell anything you put up there. Unfortunately, it has become somewhat of a haven for fraud and scammers, despite eBay’s best efforts to keep them out.…

Craigslist is a great, free service on which I’ve bought and sold many things. The only part that creeps me out is having to meet people in person, or have them come over to your house.

But what if you could take those concepts and add something more—to filter out some of that creep factor? What if you weren’t dealing with creepy people—like you often have to at real garage sales? Or—at the very least—if you had to deal with those unsettling folks, what if you knew that you were simply dealing with your own creepy friends or people they know?

And that’s when he happened upon the idea of trust. And that’s what made Internet Garage Sale different. You see, you can only participate in the auctions if you’re invited by an existing user.

But it’s not just the invite that keeps the auction site safe from scammers. There are a couple of other barriers designed to help separate the wheat from the chaff. First, you have to ante in to the tune of $5 to stick around. And second there’s a built in karma system akin to eBay’s seller feedback—if that feedback allowed you to wield a machete.

In a nutshell, if someone rips you off, doesn’t complete the transaction in a timely manner, doesn’t abide by your terms, or is just an asshole, they’re gone. Banned for life. Furthermore, we’ll look at who invited the bad apple, and possibly lower their karma too depending on circumstances.

Responsibility and repercussions for maintaining a carefully chosen group of participants? What a novel concept in this age of come-one-come-all, increase-my-connections-high-score world of social networking.

Enough with the storytelling. What’s it like?

Well, as I hinted in the headline, the design is extremely bare bones at this point. Very much Craigslist chic.

Internet Garage Sale

And while it won’t be winning any design awards, there is an upside to the simple design: it loads incredibly fast—even on a mobile platform.

That and who’s going to argue against simplicity? Not me, my friend.

The site does what it is supposed to do. No more, no less.

We don’t handle the transaction itself — that’s your job. We don’t do Dutch auctions, PowerSellers, Storefronts or Marketplaces, Reserves, Escrows — you just list an item and people bid on it, and hopefully everyone leaves happy at the end of the day.

And something tells me that it can probably be skinned with some CSS pretty quickly if that somehow became a priority. But for now, it’s not. And that’s just fine.

It’s not everyday you see a scrappy Portland product taking on Web juggernauts. Well, maybe you do. But I don’t. So it will definitely be interesting to see where this goes.

In the meantime, see if you’re trustworthy enough to garner an invite to Portland’s biggest garage sale.

For the in-depth story on the inspiration and the concept, see Steven Frank’s post on Internet Garage Sale.

(Image courtesy Besighyawn. Used under Creative Commons.)

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One Response to “Internet Garage Sale: The trust of Twitter, the auctions of eBay, the design of Craigslist”

  1. Jmartens says:

    So how do I get an invite? I’m sold on the idea.

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