Microsoft’s entry into the classifieds arena, once code-named Fremont and now called Windows Live Expo, is set to open up to U.S. users today.
The company has been testing the site for months, first with Microsoft employees and then with businesses and universities in the Seattle area. It expects later this afternoon to launch an open beta to users nationwide at expo.live.com.
Microsoft hopes that its approach of tying free classifieds to social networks allows it to differentiate its product in an increasingly crowded market. Google recently launched a classifieds-oriented service at Google Base. Meanwhile, aggregators such as Edgeio, Oodle and Indeed are trying to unseat players like Craigslist, eBay and newspaper classifieds providers.
“What sets Windows Live Expo apart is that people can set their own search parameters for goods and services. They can define their own marketplace universe,” said Garry Wiseman, product unit manager for Windows Live Expo at Microsoft, in a statement. Wiseman wasn’t available to answer questions about the product. The company cited launch-related time pressures.
Besides allowing people to see listings only from people in their social network, Microsoft is also allowing unique geographic features. Users can search by ZIP code or search within a radius as small as 25 miles or as large as the U.S. Listings are tied with Windows Live Local so users can view maps and aerial imagery of location-based information like real estate or garage sale listings. Users must sign into Microsoft’s Passport to post listings on Windows Live Expo, though they may browse without logging in.
The beta release is tied into Microsoft’s instant messenger application and alerts service, but is not yet integrated with the MSN Spaces blog service.
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