Classifieds

If you wanted to find a date, a home entertainment center, or a job, where would you go? Pre-Internet the answer would have been the classifieds section of the local newspaper, a one-stop shop for anything and everything available in the neighborhood. This function has largely been handed off to Craigslist, a sprawling collection of goods and services (perhaps of dubious legality) that covers most regions in the United States.

Whawhee is hoping to dethrone Craigslist as the hub of local activity, offering a place for users to organize or learn about events, sales, activities, and locations in their neighborhood. The service, which is currently in beta, was founded because co-founder Thien Doan wanted to build a community around his scuba diving hobby.

The service, in a nutshell, “makes it easy to find other people with the same interest,” Doan says. Users can choose to sign up for the service via Twitter, Facebook, or email, or they can opt to use Whawhee without creating an account. This allows Whawhee to remain “open,” one of the company’s main goals for the platform and another trait shared with Craigslist.

Right now, there are two main differences between Whawhee and Craigslist: Design and content. Whawhee definitely beats Craigslist in the design department – not that Craigslist’s sparse, almost neglected look makes that difficult – but the ‘List can’t be beat for content. People have been using Craigslist for years, and Whawhee is only now entering beta, so the comparison might seem unfair, but content is king in this category.

Whawhee is entering a market dominated by a single entity (Craigslist) with harsh competition in other verticals — Meetup.com for events, Foursquare and Yelp for location, etc. — and it’s doing so on the Web in a time where mobile is emerging as the next big thing. Doan says that the company is looking to release mobile applications in the next three months and that his team is focused on the Web, because that’s where its strengths lie.

But frankly, three months from now may be too late. And that’s a shame, because Craigslist is in sore need of some competition. We’ve covered the company and its dealings before, with Michael Carney labeling the startup as the “anti-innovator” after it tried to put an end to numerous apps and services built on its platform. A new marketplace that embraces its status as a platform and brings classifieds into the modern age would be most welcome.

Doan says that Whawhee has 18 months to refine its product and build a business plan off the friends and family round that he and his co-founder raised. That means it’s got 18 months to find a way to amass users and give Craigslist some competition. Let’s hope it does.

[Image Credit: ilamont.com on Flickr]