Prostitution and spam killed Craigslist

I don't know about other folks, but I love Craigslist. I love the fact that a top traffic internet property is run by a a few dozen guys (maybe a little more now). I love that the interface hasn't changed since it first started. They don't move around things or change the design for the sake of change. People are creatures of habit and don't want to learn new UIs if unnecessary. Craigslist has no ads and makes its money solely from charging people to post on certain categories. The website gets to the point and full-fills its niche quite well (or at least used to).

Back in the day, I would pursue Craigslist when I was bored and needed something. It was fun to read the Dating ads even if I'm wasn't looking. Unlike dating sites like Match or Tinder, Craigslist emphasized uniqueness through text. It did not have standard profiles but instead had an endless feed of new listings ordered by submission. Each ad/listing really gave you an idea of the person. Many of them were short and to the point, but if they had something long and thought-out, you really were able to get a feel of their personality. I don't think the newer dating sites are able to match this.

It was also fun to look through their For Sale section and find random things at rock bottom prices. You could always find great deals from people moving out of the city or at the end of the school year where students needed to get rid of their stuff as they were moving out the dorms. Craigslist has taught me buying second hand is almost always better than buying new. You save on cost, reduce one thing from the landfills, and if you take the time, you can find it almost always like new condition.

These days, I find myself visiting less and less. I believe two things caused Cragslist to death-spiral, which I truly hope they can recover from. First, in 2018, Congress passed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. This law was passed to fight online prostitution and sex trafficking. The spirit of the law is noble but its fallout was widespread. Craigslist couldn't risk getting in trouble with the government like and preemptively closed their dating section.

This meant all the "casual" users who came for dating stop coming. Historically, these casual users were drawn in by the dating section and some continued on to sell their stuff. These casual users also greatly contributed to the For Sale section and their lost is pretty evident if you check it out nowadays.

Instead of seeing random trinkets and great deals, nowadays, you mostly see spam. The spam is pretty obvious when you click on the listing, but it's very difficult to tell from just the headline and thumbnail. This means you end up wasting a lot time needlessly clicking on listings that actually spam. In the last few years, Craigslist has been actively fighting spam by introducing accounts, hiding email addresses via their proxy email address and adding captchas everywhere.

I don't know if all this will help Craigslist return to the top of selling stuff locally. It might be too little too late as most people have moved onto Facebook Marketplace or Offerup. Craigslist may have inadvertently killed their Golden Goose by killing off their dating section. Regardless, I truly hope Craigslist recovers their footing as I love Craigslist, their virtues they signal and their willingness to keep their site simple for their users.

Craigslist  prostitution  spam