Craigslist Shuts Down Services That Make Craigslist More Useful

Padmapper is a site that takes housing listings from Craigslist and other sites and plots them on a map. That sounds like a very simple thing, but it makes searching for a new home easier by many orders of magnitude. Craigslist, though, doesn’t like people scraping its data and monetizing it–even if the use of that data sends lots and lots of traffic right to Craigslist.

In a blog post, PadMapper CEO (and only employee) Eric DeMenthon told the sad story:

I recently received a Cease and Desist letter from Craigslist, and wasn’t able to get a meeting or convince Craigslist’s lawyer that PadMapper was beneficial to Craigslist and apartment hunters in general. They allow mobile apps to display their listings if you buy a license from them, but not websites.

Padmapper does have a mobile app, but most traffic comes from the web site. It isn’t alone in being shut down, though. Other sites that use Craigslist data (and sell ads against the aggregation) have been shut down, like Mapskrieg and jaXed.

For now, HousingMaps is a similar site available in a number of larger cities. And if you’re a landlord or broker who only wants to deal with people savvy enough to use PadMapper, you can submit your listings directly for free. The site’s still up…just a lot emptier than it used to be.

Upset about the loss of these sites? Their creators ask that you e-mail Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and CEO Jim Buhrmaster. Their addresses are easy to figure out: their first names at craiglist.org.

Bye Bye Craigslist :-( [Padmapper blog]
Craigslist: Why did Craigslist send PadMapper a cease and desist letter? [Quora]

Comments

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  1. eccsame says:

    To this day I have no idea how Craigslist makes money.

  2. Schildkrote says:

    “Padmapper is a site that takes housing listings from Craigslist and other sites and plots them on a map. That sounds like a very simple thing, but it makes searching for a new home easier by name orders of magnitude.”

    I actually thought “name orders of magnitude” was a figure of speech I hadn’t heard before, so I tried looking it up. It actually appears that it’s just a proofreading error. “That sounds like a very simple thing, but it makes searching for a new home by name easier by orders of magnitude.” was what I think we would have got if this site had editors.

    I’m actually curious about this one. Maybe it really is a figure of speech.

  3. Jauryn says:

    Of course this comes at a time right after I discovered the wonders of Padmapper. It’s amazing that Craigslist would make this sort of decision though; are there ANY downsides to having a site like that link to your listings? I far preferred looking through there for apartments rather than trudging through the murky listings of Apts & Housing… Back to the old grind though I suppose.

  4. Derigiberble says:

    Perhaps they will move to stem the flood of Apartment Locators spamming the hell out of craiglist postings? Or at least start charging them money to post similar to what they do for job listings.

    In some major cities (like Houston) it is nearly impossible to find real listing because 9 out of 10 are fake properties posted by locators who will tell you “oh, sorry that place just rented but here are other (more expensive, less desirable, yet higher commission) places!”

  5. Michael Belisle says:

    I’m annoyed because I was in the middle of finding a place to live in a new town when the shutdown occurred. Now I have to actually go to Craigslist, where I’ll search for Pleasantville only to deluged with posts like “Pleasantville-adjacent (Ghettoville).

    • Lyn Torden says:

      I stopped using Craigslist for housing hunts and many other things a few years ago because the site is just worthless to navigate. I hope Craigslist did this because they are ready to launch something just like that or by some means fix their horrible interface. They very seriously need a location based search. And it needs to support multiple locations, too.

      It would be easier for Craigslist to do it, too. They would start with the address entered by the ad submitter, bring up a map with a search based one what is entered (probably about 90% accuracy), and ask the submitter to confirm the location on the map or find where it is. Then they have the coordinates for sure.

  6. who? says:

    Padmapper was making money from craigslist’s data. And they didn’t bother to ask if the could license the data from craigslist, they just decided to scrape the website. And now they’re complaining because they got a C&D letter. Check.

    Scraping someone else’s website is never a good business plan. At best, it’s a losing game of trying to keep up with a constantly changing website. But more likely, the owner of the original website will eventually get wind of it, and something like this will happen.

    • Michael Belisle says:

      I believe you have described what known in the Internet community as a “search engine.” Padmapper, like Google, aggregated data and provided links to the original. the difference is that Google has money to object to people who don’t like how the Internet works.

      • Chuchundra says:

        Not only that, but Craigslist publishes RSS feeds of all its listings. There’s no need to even scrape the data. They make it available to everyone for easy download or integration into your website.

        I have no idea how they can object to what Padmapper does on any legal grounds.

        • gellfex says:

          In a more sane company, CL would have bought Padmapper and we’d have a new feature, rather than the web 0.3 pig that is CL. Their refusal to process their own data into decent user friendly products is boggling.

      • who? says:

        Actually, there’s a large difference between what a search engine does and and a web scraping site does, both in the technical challenges and in business model.

        Technically, a search engine crawls a large number of sites, indexing words found on each site. The search engine generally doesn’t care about the formatting of the data on the site. To a search engine, a website is just a pile of words. The search engine may be able to detect that a certain stream of words has semantic meaning (an address, for example), but it doesn’t infer any kind of meaning from the html formatting.

        If a website doesn’t want search engines to crawl it, all it has to do is create a robots.txt file with a “disallow” entry, and the website (or parts of it) will be skipped by the search engine’s crawlbots. All of the major search engines respect robots.txt files.

        A web scraper, on the other hand, targets a single site, scrapes formatted data from the site, and potentially uses the formatting to get semantic meaning from the data. Using scraped data causes technical difficultes, because nearly all websites are moving targets, and a data scraper that worked yesterday won’t work today. For example, if you were scraping consumerist.com, your site would be down, and you’d be busy rewriting your scraper code today.

        From a business perspective, the search engine business model is to aggregate data from a lot of sites. There are enough sites that welcome web crawlers that the few that don’t want to be crawled don’t really hurt the viability of the search engine.

        Using scraped data, on the other hand, forces the company to rely on a single point of failure for data. If the source website changes their formatting, goes out of business, or sends a C&D letter, the site is in a situation that’s hard to recover from. From a business perspective, if you’re using data from a single site, you’re much better off making the source site aware of your intention and getting permission *before* you base your entire business model on their data.

        I haven’t said a word about legality, just about the viability of the business model. According to craigslist’s TOU, they ban both scraping and crawling. But in practice, their robots.txt file actually allows crawling of most of the site (except the forums), and they only seem to go after sites that are specifically targeting craigslist data.

  7. Real Cheese Flavor says:

    Funny, I never thought of Craigslist as useful unless you were looking to buy (or track down) a stolen laptop/DLSR/iPad/etc, hire a prostitu, er escort, or send a several thousand dollar “rental deposit” cashier’s check to some scammer.

  8. James says:

    Editor? HA!

    Quoted from article “Twenty-five years ago it was impossible to put your hands on something that hadn’t been professionally copy-edited,” Mr. Garner says. “Today, it is actually hard to put your hands on something that has been professionally copy-edited.”

    See -> http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303410404577466662919275448.html?mod=e2tw&goback=.gde_69017_member_126520923

  9. limbodog says:

    Man, I was using Padmapper to find a new place. CL sucks for searches on homes.

  10. Husker says:

    I find Craigslist useful for buying a used car from a private individual, though not a dealer. A few of their ads are fraudulent but not enough to be a time sink. It does take some searching and waiting to find the right car, but I have found good cars at a significant discount compared to buying from a dealer. Is there a better place to find a used car from a private individual?
    I also find Craigslist useful for things that I just want to get rid of, like a vacuum. If I had a lot of such things I could have a garage sale, but it is not worth the bother when I only have a few things to get rid of.