58.com (58同城): China’s Largest Classifieds Site and Much More

58 China's Modern Classifieds Super App

58.com (58同城 / Wǔbā Tóngchéng), often referred to as ‘The Craigslist of China’, is a massive classifieds platform that has been growing healthily in both users and scope since its founding in 2005. While the comparison to Craigslist was very fair back in the firms’ early days, the modern 58 TongCheng more resembles a combination of eBay, Indeed, Handy, and Zillow than it does a traditional Web 1.0 classifieds site. 

In this article we cover 58’s Company History, Service Offerings, Memorable Name and Key Leader

58 China Logo

58 Tongcheng (58同城): Company History

2005: Yao Jinbo founds 58.com in Beijing. He still serves as the CEO as of 2023. 

2007: The company thrives via a simple classifieds model. Throughout the year it sets up office branches in Tianjin, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou. The team builds out localized websites for more than 160 cities across the country.

2009:  Registered users surpass 100 million!

2011: Chinese celebrity Yang Mi becomes the first celebrity spokesperson for 58.com – beginning a years-long relationship between the two. This event ushers in an era of massive marketing and national brand recognition for the platform.

Yang Mi’s ad spot for 58.com in 2019

2013: 58.com was officially listed on the New York Stock Exchange (symbol: ‘WUBA’), raising $187 million USD in the process.

2014: Strategic investments and acquisitions. In 2014, 58.com began deploying its capital in a significant way. Highlights for the year include investments in eDaijia (e代驾, Real Estate), Momo (陌陌, Social Media and Dating), Baojia (宝驾租车, Car Rental), and purchase of Charm 91 (购魅力91, Recruitment). 

2015: Two giants merge (and more acquisitions).

  • In April, 58.com announces a strategic investment and merger with Ganji, their biggest competitor and second-largest classifieds portal in China at the time. Founder CEO Yao Jinbo refers to the former rivalry between 58 and Ganji as “the most intense on the Internet.”
  • Throughout the rest of the year, the newly formed 58 Group acquires other service giants Anjuke (安居客, Real Estate), ChinaHR (中华英才网, Human Resources), Jxedt.com (驾校一点通, Transportation and Licensing), and invests in Tubatu (土巴兔装修网, Home Decoration). 
58 China listed on NYSE
NYSE banner on day of 58.com listing under ticker 'WUBA'

2018: In a widely promoted partnership, 58 launches its WeChat App and secures a $200 million USD investment from Tencent for its newly launched University-focused platform ZhuanZhuan (转转, Recruitment & Second-Hand Services).

The company reports adding 100 million users in 2018 alone

2020: A group of investors including Warburg Pincus Asia LLC, General Atlantic Singapore Fund Pte Ltd, Ocean Link Partners Ltd, Founder/CEO Jinbo Yao, and Internet Opportunity Fund LP (an entity controlled by Yao) take 58 private off of the NYSE. The deal values the company at about $8.7 billion USD.

2022: The Ganji brand is changed from ‘Gangji Web’ (赶集网 Gǎnjí wǎng) to ‘Ganji Recruit’ (赶集直招 Gǎnjí zhí zhāo). The intent is to refocus the brand from general classifieds to recruitment and jobs.

58 China 'Find a Job' Advertisement
58.com Advertisement: 'Find a Job on 58 TongCheng'

58 China (58同城): Service Offerings

58.com (58同城) is a comprehensive online classifieds platform in China that offers a diverse range of services.

Here’s a breakdown of the main service categories on 58’s flagship platform:

  1. Job Listings: 58 is a prominent posting platform for job seekers and employers. Users can browse job listings, post resumes, and connect with potential employers, similar in function to top international job sites like Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn Jobs.

  2. Real Estate Services: The platform includes a robust real estate section where users can find property listings for sale or rent, including residential and commercial properties.

  3. Second-hand (and first-hand) Goods: Individuals can buy and sell second-hand goods, ranging from electronics to furniture. The platform serves as a virtual marketplace for pre-owned items similar to eBay. And just like eBay, this marketplace has over time grown to include traditional retailers also selling first-hand goods. 

  4. Local Services: 58.com has a robust local services listings section which includes in-home services, beauty and wellness, education, and a whole lot more. The platform is used by local businesses across China to reach a broader audience and advertise in-person services.

  5. Automotive Listings: The platform features another expansive section for buying and selling vehicles, including both new and used cars. It provides a dedicated space for both individuals and dealerships to showcase vehicles and connect with potential buyers.

  6. Home Services: In addition to the local services section, there is a dedicated area for in-home services such as housekeeping, moving, nannies, repairs, and anything else you might imagine!

  7. Recycling Services: As of my last visit to the site, 58 has added recycling services to the marquee along with the previous categories. Looks like a pretty straightforward way for businesses to connect with local recycling services for practically any category of goods.

58 "Find a Job"
58 "Find a Home"
58 "Find a Second Hand Car"

Promoted Services of 58 Tóngchéng: ‘Find a Job’ / ‘Find a Home’ / ”2nd Hand Cars’

58.com: The Unique and Memorable Name

While the number 58 might not signify anything special to most, one thing is for certain – 58 as a company name is super easy to remember and even easier to type into a browser. I’d go as far as to say that after reading this article, you’re likely to relate this simple two-digit number to this Chinese company for the foreseeable future!

And that’s part of what makes a great brand name – simplicity and memorability.

So how did 58.com get its name?

Where did the number 58 come from? Is ’58’ significant in the Chinese language? 

These are some of the questions this writer had, and boy does the Chinese internet have some interesting answers!

Let’s break down the full Chinese name a bit first for context: 58同城 / Wǔbā Tóngchéng

  • The number 58 in Chinese is pronounced Wǔbā.
  • The next part, 同城 Tóngchéng, translates to ‘Same City’.

SOME of the 58 naming theories from the Chinese Internet:

  • When the company was founded, it had 58 employees. [1]
  • The founder already had and liked the simple domain name. [2]
  • The logo design session took place on May 8th (5/8), which happens to be Smile Day in China. [3]
58's Smile Themed Logo
58's former smile-themed logo

The DIRECT explainer from the founder, posted on his own Wechat moments:

Addressing the name’s meaning directly in a WeChat post, 58’s founder explained that the name derives from a sort of homophone.

In Chinese, 5 (wǔ) sounds like ‘Me/I’ (wǒ).

8 (bā) sounds like the adjective for ‘send/develop’ (发 fā).

Bringing it all together, the name sounds like ‘我发同城’, or ‘I develop in the same city’.

He goes one step further to explain that the ‘I’ is really meant to mean ‘we’, and the true meaning is ‘我们一起发,共同富裕’ or ‘Let’s prosper together’.

58.com Founder Post on Wechat
58.com founder post on Wechat

The 58.com Founder: Yao Jinbo (姚劲波)

58.com Founder Yao Jinbo
58.com Founder & CEO Yao Jinbo

The 58 Tongcheng founder is a key part of the firm’s direction and success over the years. The company proudly promotes him as the public figure and face of the company to this day. 

In 2001, Yao co-founded the successful online platform XueDa Education (currently listed on the Chinese Stock Exchange). This success enabled him the opportunity find funding for and  launch 58 in 2005.

Yao has been at the helm of 58 since its founding, and still serves as the firm’s CEO as of 2023. Here is an interesting ’60 Minutes’ style interview with him in 2013 covering his background and interesting appearance getting playfully roasted on a famous Chinese talk show: Yao Jinbo Interview (in Chinese). 

In 2018, Yao won a representative spot in the 13th National People’s Congress, and held it in the 2023-announced 14th National People’s Congress.

58 Tongcheng (58同城): A Wrap Up

While 58 Tóngchéng may have started out eyeing Craiglist’s success in the US, it can be argued that the company has innovated and expanded beyond what Craiglist ever envisioned. 58 has matured into a super platform for classifieds in the modern era. 

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