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Web Watch by Leslie Walker

Virtual Storefronts Are Rent-Free on LiveDeal

By Leslie Walker
The Washington Post
Sunday, November 21, 2004; Page F05

A locally focused Web marketplace called LiveDeal made its official debut last week, offering "free for life" storefronts to sellers and the ability to list anything for sale or rent at no cost. The site (www.livedeal.com) is one of many Internet ventures exploring new ways to make money from local commerce.

LiveDeal has been in testing for much of the past year and appears to be gaining traction: It drew 516,000 visitors in October, according to ComScore Networks Inc.

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Part of the attraction is that LiveDeal charges nothing to list items and collects its 5 percent commission on completed sales only if sellers offer a "buy now" fixed price and bill via PayPal. Sellers who list something and simply invite offers can negotiate directly with buyers and avoid fees. Aside from PayPal, people can also meet in person and pay however they like.

"We bring the best of Craigslist and eBay into one site," said Rajesh Navar, the founder and a former eBay engineer.

Craigslist, another site focused on local commerce, also offers free listings in many categories, including apartment rentals, job openings and services. But Navar noted that Craigslist operates only in big cities -- about 65 so far -- while LiveDeal is available nationwide. Moreover, LiveDeal offers sophisticated listing and browsing tools resembling those of eBay, only without eBay's auction formats.

Navar said LiveDeal is aimed partly at the market for big, bulky items that are expensive to ship. When users provide a Zip code, LiveDeal presents a highly localized view of items for sale. So far, 120,000 sellers have registered at the site; more than 100,000 items are currently listed for sale. Like eBay, LiveDeal lets sellers create electronic storefronts. While eBay's cost money, LiveDeal's are free so long as the seller maintains 10 items for sale every month.

Yahoo Gets Personal

Yahoo, testing people's willingness to pay extra for fancier services, launched a pricier version of its dating service last week. Yahoo Personal Premiere costs $35 a month, instead of the $20 fee for its standard matchmaking service. In return, people can play Cupid based on results from two new online self-assessment tests. One assesses a person's personality; the other looks at relationship styles (think "romantic" or "passionate"). The tests are free for anyone to take, but starting in January a premium subscription will be required to factor test results into searches for potential mates.


Web-Mail Inboxes Inflate

Users of Yahoo's Web-mail service are getting a second bump in their online storage. On Monday, the site began upgrading its free mail service to 250 megabytes of mail storage, up from 100 megabytes. Yahoo's move is part of an escalating battle among Web-mail providers to compete with Google, which is testing a new Web-mail service called Gmail with a gigabyte of free storage.

Yahoo's oldest competitor, Microsoft Corp.'s Hotmail, announced last summer that it would raise its storage limits to 250 megabytes and is completing that upgrade now -- but not without a glitch. Some subscribers to Hotmail's extra-storage plan saw a bizarre text message, quoting a line from the movie "Gladiator," when they signed on Wednesday. The quote was soon removed, while Microsoft apologized for the "inconvenience" in a statement.



E-mail Leslie Walker at walkerl@washpost.com.

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