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The Craigslist Credo: Unbrand, Demonetize, Uncompete (wired.com)
40 points by edw519 on Aug 25, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 19 comments

Classified businesses, much like auctions, are a game of network size. Get big first, you win, even if you have an inferior product.

In Canada, Craigslist took a little longer to catch on. Ebay noticed this, and therefore "picked up the pace" by spending TONS of money acquiring Kijiji visitors (mostly via SEM, but some display on major portals as well).

End result? Kijiji is #1 in Canada, and Craigslist is trending down in traffic - http://trends.google.com/websites?q=craigslist.org%2C+kijiji...

Long story short - if your business model depends on network effects, raise enough money to get big fast, as your basically racing to reach, not competing on product.

Great observation. The article never mentions anything about "first mover" or "network effect". It seems completely bought into the fallacy that intrinsic product quality is what determines the winner in a market.

Woh, I think I looked a Kijiji a while ago and forgot about it until I saw your post.

Awesome that they're doing so well and offering a better service than Craigslist from what I've seen so far (at least in Canada.)

Thanks for the post.

I for one absolutely admire Craigslist’s non-branded, not-for-profit mentality. Regardless of its primitiveness, Craigslist serves its purpose exceptionally well. Apparently, not all companies need profits to keep them focused.

eBay can’t seem to provide a decent customer experience to save its life regardless of how much it charges for listings. Instead of improving their product, best strategy they can come up with is to buy a minority share in craigslist so that they can strongarm the company.

It is also very telling that people (especially the newspapers) think Craigslist has a duty to not undercut their outdated classifieds by not being free. You know they are really reaching for somebody to blame.

Can't they create an API and give developers metered access to their system? A thousand better websites will mushroom overnight with no loss in revenue for them. They can even require the third party site not accept signups or store any data.

In my experience, offering API access is a great way to massively increase developer workload. If they don't want more money, and they don't want to hire lots of new developers, what's the incentive for offering an API?

"Regardless of its primitiveness, Craigslist serves its purpose exceptionally well."

That's just not true. Finding things on craigslist has always been a painful experience for me. External tools (e.g. Padmapper) make things better in some categories, but the combination of craigslist's dominance and its stasis have been bad for consumers, regardless of their benevolent mindset.

I'm curious what makes your experience so painful. I've found using Craigslist to be quite painless while selling or buying (Chicago, Paris, and SF) - usability is ridiculously simple and straight forward.

IMHO, KISS is part of why Craigslist has been so successful.

Try keeping an eye out for certain models of older vehicles. I like old VW's but there is no way to easily say, "just show me Volkswagens made before 1980", it takes a query like.. (1948|1949|1950|1951|1952....|1979)

Now I have those bookmarked and saved, but for someone like my dad who also likes Volkswagens, he doesn't know thats possible so has to weed through hundreds of newer VW ads. Thus its painful.

In 2006, Craigslist's CEO Jim said that if enough users told them to "raise revenue and plow it into charity" that they would consider doing it. (source: http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=4082 )Craigslist could raise a billion dollars for charity over several years, with a simple text or banner ad. They could put a large "X" next to the ad, allowing you to permanently close it. There seems to be little objection to this idea. The optional banner is harmless, and a billion dollars could be enough to dramatically improve the lives of millions. As a moral calculus, the decision seems a no brainer.

As a first step for us, the Craigslist users, in telling Craig and Jim what we think, I started a Facebook group. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=114346357248 It only takes 12 seconds to show your support. Once we get to 1000 members or so we can take it to Twitter en masse.

See Mark Bao's blog post, also. http://markjournal.com/2009/07/craigslist-advertising-for-ch...

I suppose this could be an interesting series but as far as I can tell all this article said was: "I'm soon going to write some stuff about craigslist."

He actually did write an article about Craig's List.


Yes. It's not obvious, but there are a bunch of links at the bottom of the page. Very interesting reading, lots of interesting details.

Wired's cover on Craigslist was plain wrong.

Their UI is brilliant, iconic, and works great. Why fix something that's not broke. And while Wired mag is shrinking and their tech culture authority has waned, CL is making $100M+ plus and growing with virtually no overhead. Yet they focus on Newmark's social shortcomings? How about a focus on his P&L, his dedication, and how he saved consumers billions on classifieds.

This bit struck me: "...the vehemence of the editors’ point of view caught me off guard."

I could be wrong, but is sounds like the editors of a publishing company were pushing for a negative article about a site that's having an effect on publishing companies. I always thought that kind of stuff happened indirectly, through assumptions and implications.

Then again it could just be that they were just excited about an idea for a story.

FWIW, I've been talking to the author about RentHop, so he's doing a decent amount of original research for the series.

I groan with almost every article about Craigslist - because outside of some select US cities - is it really that good or popular?

I'm certainly not going to use the melbourne.craigslist.com.au (1 or 2 house/apartments per day and maybe 1 job.. what would be the point compared to seek.com.au / realestate.com.au

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