Jobs. Cars. Pets. Rides. You can find almost anything online on places such as Craigslist, eBay and Angie's List. What you won't find is information about the actual buyer or seller, so you know something about the person you're dealing with.
Enter the Electronic Marketplace for Merchandise and Activities or "Emma." It is a new iPhone app from Microstrategy that, simply put, lets you view the Facebook profile of buyers and sellers. This know before you go approach may not be a deal breaker if you're in the market for collectibles. But for personal, community-based services - like tutors, rideshares, dates, carpool and parties - then Emma could add a level of security to the transaction. Sadly, it disappoints.
This isn't Microstrategy's first attempt at working with Facebook data, we last wrote about their efforts here. Nor is it the first social ecommerce app. Marketplace for Oodle and Facebook let you link to your friend's profiles on their Web sites. But their mobile app only shows the friends name, you can't see their profile.
Lions and Bids and Contracts Oh My!To use Emma, the first step is to choose the Facebook information you want to share (professional, social, private) and who can view your listings (Everyone, Friends, Friends of Friends). In Emma's world, you're either a "bidder" or an "owner."
If you're interested in a listing, you submit a "bid." Then the owner can see your profile. However, owners have the option to share their profile, which seems to make Emma's approach a one-way affair. If the owner accepts your bid, you create a "contract," an off-putting term for what's simply an informal, unenforceable agreement between buyer and seller.
Promising Idea, Poor DesignI posted a listing on Emma to give her a test drive and experienced a few glitches. I couldn't easily get the page to the home page and had to restart my iPhone several times.
And despite its tagline of "the friendly marketplace," Emma is not all that easy to use. It doesn't look or behave like any standard iPhone apps that I know. For example, the menu bar along the bottom doesn't appear on all pages, so I found myself tapping Back or Cancel or pressing the iPhone home button to get back home. And Emma peppers confusing icons on its home page, like the Venn diagram you tap to create a search filter. It's the only classified app I've used that requires a tutorial to help you get started.
In addition, you've got to trust what you read in someone's profile, but Facebook users seem to be a trusting lot .
Lastly, Emma doesn't aggregate classifieds (like Oodle) or have extensive listings (like Craigslist). This week there were about 2,000 listings, according to Microstrategy. It seems Emma has more pride and prejudice than sense and sensibility. She may be the germ of a good idea, but still needs some additional thought.
Emma gets an 'A' for letting owners and sellers link to Facebook profiles. But it gets an 'F' in usability.