About a month ago, Craigslist started playing hard to get when it sent competing apartment search service PadMapper a cease and desist notice. The fallout has continued since, as Craigslist has filed complaints against PadMapper and API service 3taps, and slipped in a new exclusive content licensing clause into its site.
And now it appears that Craigslist has flipped the switch entirely and is blocking all search engines from pulling data from its site. This of course includes Google and Bing, which currently are not indexing Craigslist listings.
“At about noon on Aug 6, it seems CL may have instructed all general search engines to stop indexing CL pasting – effectively blocking us…” 3taps said via Twitter early this morning. 3taps, a workaround which creates an API for grabbing Craigslist postings with the help of content surfaced via search engines, has also posted a message on its homepage. “At approximately noon on Sunday August 5, Craigslist instructed all general search engines to stop indexing CL postings – effectively blocking 3taps and other 3rd party use of that data from these public domains. We are sorry that CL has chosen this course of action and are exploring options to restore service but may be down for an extended period of time unless we or CL change practices.”
The move basically means Craigslist is willing to sacrifice itself in order to punish those pulling its data. The site will get considerably less traffic, and it’s not exactly instilling good faith with users or developers. Craigslist is on a slippery slope: It’s making its data that much more difficult for end users to find in order to prevent services like 3taps from getting their hands on it. At best, these priorities are questionable, and at worst, unethical.
You could of course argue that Craigslist constant decision not to offer an API means it can do what it pleases, but the site has long contended its reasoning was to keep its servers from being overwhelmed. However, 3taps founder Greg Kidd has told me this isn’t the case with its solution, which doesn’t impact Craigslist servers.
It’s difficult not to just instinctively see Craigslist as a data-hoarder here, and all its efforts to keep its listings proprietary seem both impossible and self-harmful. There are far too many applications that pull Craigslist sale items, jobs, pets… the list goes on and on. Is Craigslist really going to target them all while simultaneously killing a hefty amount of its own traffic in the process? The drama is anything but over, and we’ll be watching to see how all the involved parties adapt to Craigslist’s new demands – and if a viable alternative is able to capitalize on the new space in this market.