Craigslist smacks down scrappers, updates photo layout

Krystal Peak · August 10, 2012 · Short URL:

After working to cut out third parties, Craigslist adds in-line photos for listings

Just as Craigslist is in a public skirmish over third-party developers on its turf, the public listings service is also trying to improve its rarely changed, no-frills layout by letting people put a more prominent focus on photos of items.

The service, quite quietly introduced a feature allowing users view images inline, on the same page as category listings, and when you scroll your mouse over the image, it enlarges. Previously, users had to click through to specific entries to see those pictures and often scroll down through each entry to even get to where the pictures were posted.

This small change is a big cue that Craigslist is ready to accept the visually driven focus of online commerce that has been heating up since Pinterest capitalized on our visual interests. Now, this doesn't mean that we can expect a layout overhaul of Craigslist but it does show that the service is ready to counter all the services trying to circumvent the pioneer.

Lately, Craigslist has been doing all it can to restrict how its content gets used elsewhere. One instance of the proactive action Craigslist has taken includes the cease and desist letters sent to services that scrape its data to use in third-party listings services.

Craigslist also cut off the access Google and other search engines had to index its listings in its cache, by excluding high-level categories in its robots.txt file. And last week it began to display an exclusivity clause for all new postings, although now that exclusivity clause has been removed.

Third-party sites like Padmapper (currently being sued by Craigslist), were celebrated for making the text-heavy Craigslist easier to use and have even been sure to send traffic through to Craigslist so it isn't cutting out the service's traffic.

The once very vocal company petitioning for the rights and freedom of the internet, Craigslist has dropped a provision claiming an exclusive license to users' posts just two weeks after implementing it in a bid to fend off third-parties trying to re-purpose the site's content.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Craigslist quietly abandoned the provision, which the EFF said also claimed the exclusive right to "enforce copyrights against anyone copying, republishing, distributing, or preparing derivative works without...consent."

The EFF wrote this week that:

For many years, Craigslist has been a good digital citizen. Its opposition to SOPA/PIPA was critically important, and it has been at the forefront of challenges to Section 230 and freedom of expression online. We understand that Craigslist faces real challenges in trying to preserve its character and does not want third parties to simply reuse its content in ways that are out of line with its user community's expectations and could be harmful to its users.

Nevertheless, it was important for Craigslist to remove the provision because claiming an exclusive license to the user's posts -- to the exclusion of everyone, including the original poster -- would have harmed both innovation and users' rights, and would have set a terrible precedent. We met with Craigslist to discuss this recently and are pleased about their prompt action.

It will be interesting to see where Craigslist will stand on its exclusivity as these third-party suits continue and if all of this action is leading up to Craigslist vying for advertising revenue in the future -- which would be the biggest reason for the company to be so possessive of its listings and traffic.


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