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Dear Craig: Voluntarily Dismiss with Prejudice
May 1, 2013 5:52 PM   Subscribe

Over at the Freedom to Tinker blog, Steve Schultze posts about a recent ruling against Craigslist in their suit against PadMapper an online service that helps users of craigslist via mapping, and 3Taps, a platform that documents and stores historical transaction information... Craigslist responded by filing 17 claims...
"The fact pattern is a bit complex, but the 17 claims can be roughly broken down into the following:
1. Copyright Infringement, and the tort of Misappropriation
2. Trademark Infringement
3. Breach of Contract claims
4. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, it’s California counterpart, and the tort of Trespass
5. Unfair Competition"
The full article has plenty of linkage for further background on the case.
posted by symbioid (28 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Padmapper is fucking INVALUABLE to me, it's how I found my last apartment and it's how I'll find my next one. And, as the post says, it helped me find an apartment by driving me to Craigslist! You have to click through to Craigslist to view the apartment listing...
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:58 PM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm shocked this isn't in patent court, I thought craigslist would have patented all those sweet interface innovations already.
posted by benzenedream at 6:10 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Craigslist's "regular" terms of use don't grant the necessary exclusive license, but the combination of the terms that don't grant an exclusive license with a "reminder" from Craigslist that it does grant an exclusive license, somehow makes the terms grant an exclusive license.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:14 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem is that it's so good, they want it for themselves and it's so successful they know they can't buy it for a song now.
posted by localroger at 6:33 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


You have to click through to Craigslist to view the apartment listing...

I'm pretty ignorant with the technical details of such things, and I loved using padmapper, but still ... I thought when I used it to find a place last summer, that the detailed listing still showed up as padmapper.com, with a view of the original listing. Could be my faulty, smoked-out memory though.
posted by mannequito at 6:53 PM on May 1, 2013


I thought PadMapper was brilliant last summer until all the CL listings suddenly went away, at which point it became useless. Meanwhile, wading through CL itself was insufferable because the same apartments were simply posted over and over and over again, with no sense that flagging the repeats had any effect. I could tell other people were having the same problem when this appeared on xkcd.
posted by maryr at 8:28 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


During the initial battle, Craig would say "we're just responding to requests from our community," meanwhile the Craigslist community boards were filled, at like a 97-3 ratio, with posts saying "Craig, you should let Padmapper do this, it's awesome, it's helpful."

Then he'd also say "it's out of my hands, I'm just a customer service rep," which, you know, is technically true, but he's also a giant stakeholder in the company and it's named after him, and the company is only like 19 people total.

The Crush Padmapper thing is at odds with what I believed the site and Craig were about, and so it's confusing to see such a disparity.
posted by zippy at 8:34 PM on May 1, 2013


... requests from our community to block Padmapper, that is.
posted by zippy at 8:35 PM on May 1, 2013


The problem is that it's so good, they want it for themselves and it's so successful they know they can't buy it for a song now.

No, they want to kill it outright and never upgrade their horrible user interface even where there's a clear need and user demand, because of a combination of some quixotic notion of web purity and sheer dickishness.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:03 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


because of a combination of some quixotic notion of web purity and sheer dickishness.

Or, they've already captured the market for apartment rentals, and improvements on the site are overhead, so leaving the site as it is means higher profitability. Although this interpretation is undermined by their legal efforts also having a cost.

I wonder if it comes down to support. More complex features mean more stuff they need to explain to users or fix, from now until forever, at some cost, while a lawsuit accomplishes the same goal (keeping competition at bay) and yet as an expense has a well-defined end.
posted by zippy at 9:17 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find it fascinating that Craigslist act like a bunch of dicks to anyone who tries to improve the utility of their services, and yet very few seem to call them out for it. Quite a trick they've pulled off, that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:00 PM on May 1, 2013


Apartment hunting on Craigslist is like trying to find the least decayed piece of corn in a cesspool, equipped only with a hammer and a screwdriver.
posted by wotsac at 11:08 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Craig Newmark and Steve Jobs strike me as similar people, in this way. They both have (had) a notion about something--say, no porn for Steve, and HTML -3 for Craig--and they'll go to the wall to defend it, no matter how much their customer base says they want it.

CL has also waged a big campaign in the past (which seems to wax and wane) over sites that allow you to search multiple CLs for something. It doesn't make much sense when you want a card table, but for rarer items it's often the only way to find them.
posted by maxwelton at 12:12 AM on May 2, 2013


I have thought for a long time now that Facebook could challenge Craigslist, and is probably the only company that could get the market penetration to do so.

It would be great for these companies that spam apartment listings to have to tie their ads into their public company Facebook page.

Craigslist, while wonderful years ago, is really a terrible experience anymore. The anonymity, for the rentals and for sale sections anyway, is not helpful for a renter or buyer. There's a reason a site like eBay has feedback.

(There would be drawbacks to a Facebook classified service - obviously people can create fake accounts, but I think it could be overcome.)

I realize many will be skeptical that Facebook could improve on the service, but really somebody needs to. I love the idea of CL being such a tiny company just doing what users want, and not getting too big or greedy, but that's not really what's going on. They need to roll some of the massive profits into making the site more functional or eventually, possibly way down the road, but eventually somebody will displace them.
posted by imabanana at 3:32 AM on May 2, 2013


I haven't used Padmapper but I actually like CLs design/interface. It's simple and it works. No bullshit like every other site on the net. Perhaps it's ease-of-use could be improved, but I don't knock a simple machine that works well.
posted by nowhere man at 5:52 AM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I realize many will be skeptical that Facebook could improve on the service, but really somebody needs to.

Yes, you're right and no, you're wrong.
posted by nowhere man at 5:56 AM on May 2, 2013


Scams are epidemic and repeated postings bury anything of value in high traffic sections. Nothing I said had anything to do with the design, which is fine.

User accounts with feedback, allowing add ons, and not relying on users to flag duplicate postings would fix 99.9% of what's wrong with Craigslist, but they will never do any of it, so I hope eventually someone will do it better.

I actually could see Airbnb expanding offerings and eating into their market share.
posted by imabanana at 6:22 AM on May 2, 2013


I haven't used Padmapper but I actually like CLs design/interface. It's simple and it works. No bullshit like every other site on the net. Perhaps it's ease-of-use could be improved, but I don't knock a simple machine that works well.

Padmapper is particularly useful for me because I live in Brooklyn, where you might say "ok, I'd live in any of these seven neighborhoods, but only in the lower half of this one and only in the southeastern third of that one and only in the northern half of that one." There is no way to glean that information from Craigslist without looking at every single post in your given price range, 80% of which will be irrelevant to your interests. But if you just PUT EVERY POSTING ON A MAP it gets, suddenly, amazingly simple and intuitive. You look at the chunk you want to live in, which overlaps a dozen arbitrary neighborhood borders, and you don't have to even think about it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:36 AM on May 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another vote for Padmapper here. Like many here, I am very comfortable researching stuff to the nth degree, but found Craigslist's presentation of apartment listings to be tremendously difficult to navigate. In just my subsection of the SF Bay Area, there's a firehose of listings, but it's a mix of suitable and unsuitable housing for my needs, without the tools to adequately select for those rich veins of housing gold.

Padmapper made Craigslist a joy to navigate. I could say "show me only listings from the past n days, between this price and that, with these features, and then plot them on a map so I can see where the heck they are."

And somehow, maybe by location or speedier response to flagging, or magical elves, Padmapper removed all the duplicates too.

When Craig would say something like they were blocking Padmapper in response to community requests, I would kind of boggle and say "really? Who in the community does not like these features? Spammers?" because Padmapper made Craigslist a pleasure to use.
posted by zippy at 10:26 AM on May 2, 2013


I'm sorry, but if you're trying to build a for-profit business by scraping another site, as opposed to taking and using what they want to give you in a respectful way, in accordance with site rules, via an API... then you're kind of asking for a lawsuit, if for no other reason than the fact that the people who posted the content did not give you permission to use it.

Padmapper is looked upon kindly because they do this useful thing with CL's real estate rentals. I wonder whether we'd look upon it so favorably if they did the same thing with something like personal ads, Facebook, etc.

Also keep in mind... when you run bots and spiders against someone else's site, they're the ones left paying for the bandwidth.
posted by markkraft at 10:28 AM on May 2, 2013


Case in point: we had people trying to scrape content at LJ for all sorts of questionable reasons, rather than actually using our API, which was designed for such a thing and reduced all the lag. Of course, our users didn't sign up for their content being used in that way. In many cases, they complained about it.

... and so, we blocked them.
... and so, they found ways to scrape the content that were even more dickish, and more of a drag on our servers.

There's a simple answer for PadMapper, if they want to profit from content that people put up on CL, though:

First, talk to Craig... he's easy to talk to. See what he says, and listen to what his concerns are.

Next, let Craig talk to his users about it. Perhaps they'd sign off on letting their content be scraped or otherwise accessed on a purely limited basis, restricted to just classified ads or the like.

And lastly... pay CL for providing the content that you're basing your business upon. Craig would almost certainly kick a lot of the $$ back to the extensive list of charities he helps, as a result.
posted by markkraft at 10:47 AM on May 2, 2013


"It still seems somewhat dickish to go against their wishes in this..."
Eric DeMenthon, PadMapper

“Padmapper's use of exchange posting is not infringing use. It is fair use or free use... of public facts."
Greg Kidd, 3Pad (the service providing PadMapper with their unauthorized scrapes of CL)

I personally have a problem with everything publicly available on the Internet as being seen as "fair use" for someone else's business model... especially when the sites or individuals in question specifically say that their content should not be used in such a manner.

How much of your content on the internet do you want scraped, analyzed, surveiled, spied upon, profiled, and marketed to, with or without your approval, so long as it helps create someone else's business model?

Because, frankly, these are the big issues that we risk having judges decide here in a way that could really hurt all of our privacy, even though we all might appreciate the fact that PadMapper is a nice kludge.
posted by markkraft at 11:29 AM on May 2, 2013


Adapt or die. You'd think Craigslist would intuitively understand this because they were the straw that broke the print newspaper's back. Doesn't matter where the law falls or the morality of site scraping: Craigslists' days are numbered if they fail to evolve their product according to user need and request.
posted by Skwirl at 11:45 AM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Am I one of the only people who actually likes that Craigslist never updates or changes its interface? I mean shit, that's one of my favorite things about this site as well.

I can't stand change for the sake of change websites like Facebook. Get a simple interface, and stick to it. Sites that constantly "evolve" often change in really arbitrary and sometimes even crappy ways just to "avoid getting stale".
posted by emptythought at 12:46 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Doesn't matter where the law falls or the morality of site scraping"
Well, actually, yes... it does matter.

"Craigslists' days are numbered if they fail to evolve their product according to user need and request."
Generally, yes. Though obviously their level of popularity could greatly delay that demise.

I would argue that CL are starting to adapt, however, given their improving map view feature... and that part of their success is due to them being as basic as they are. Their simplicity, anonymity, benevolence, and offbeat community helped to grow their site, but obviously have also caused growth pangs too.

Frankly, I think if CL changed too much from what led to their initial success, that could've hurt their business considerably and set them up as just another available choice amongst many, so I understand the reluctance not to change that part of things too quickly.
posted by markkraft at 12:52 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


First, talk to Craig... he's easy to talk to.

For what it's worth, they tried. They couldn't get a meeting with Craig.

Then, after some soul-searching, they brought the service back with absolutely no scraping of CraigsList – they instead scraped Google results, I believe.

So, while I think there's a good argument whether Padmapper can or cannot use Craiglist data (which is being hashed out in the courts), they 1) did reach out, and 2) figured out a way to not cost Craigslist anything in bandwidth.

And for what else it's worth, the community, at least as I read in the Craigslist Community forums, was overwhelmingly in favor of the site data being used this way by PadMapper, because it made Craigslist so much easier to use.
posted by zippy at 3:11 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It would be trivially easy for Craigslist to internally create a map-based aggregation of listings. They could even use Google Maps.

But the problem is humans run it, and 75% of humans are fundamentally not interested in making things work as well as they possibly could work; they make them work as well as makes them enough money to not compromise their personal view of their place in the world, and their personal need to have their "vision" "respected".

We could turn the lasers on to Metafilter if we like. Trivial example: in [1 favorite +] the + is too close to the word favorite. As a smartphone user, I fat-finger it all the fucking time. The fix is trivial - just add three spaces. I've suggested it. Will they do it? No. Will they give a sensible explanation? No.

I still enjoy MetaFilter, and I'm grateful that it exists, but the fact is that the world has moved on and MeFi is essentially a couple of subreddits with heavy moderation, and with comment threading, picture posting, and downvoting all inexplicably turned off. It took an absolute dog's age to get editing in.

We now interact with Reddit a lot. Some high proportion of FPPs here originated from Reddit anyway. Trunks and photoshop battles, for example. The reverse occurs too.

This is not to say that the removal (or wilful non-implementation) of features does not add value. Sim games of various kinds essentially work by removing player control of units. Pictionary and Charades are descriptive games where words can't be said. Poetry that rhymes is, with some exceptions, more memorable and evocative than poetry that doesn't. And so on. Constraint adds structure. Structure adds value.

If we want some insight into Craig Newmark's motivations, we could start by asking Matt Haughey.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:43 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"It would be trivially easy for Craigslist to internally create a map-based aggregation of listings. They could even use Google Maps."

They already have this. It's called map view. Works pretty well, too.
posted by markkraft at 7:21 PM on May 2, 2013


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