Craigslist has changed. The reason for change has not been publicized but Craigslist has recently decided to downgrade the type of content it will accept in its posting interface. The technical aspects of this change are beyond the scope of this article but in practical terms, it means both the people posting and the people searching will have an inferior tool to exchange information.
Before I go any further I would like to say I LOVE Craigslist, we ALL love Craigslist. It's also fair to say that "you get what you pay for" and Craigslist as far as I can tell has been free to all of us for many years. It's somewhat of a mystery to most of us how Craigslist can do what it does for free. So they deserve a lot of credit for giving us all something fabulous for a great low price.
Having voiced my appreciation for what Craigslist gives us, I'l go further and admit that I'm completely addicted to Craigslist. I am the front man for small business providing rental homes for families. Craigslist has been a wonderful way to connect with people in need what we offer almost since our business began 10 years ago. And while there are more modern venues to find tenants such as Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads and many others, Craigslist is still a common meeting place for those that offer something those that want something. It's simple and very powerful.
My complaint today is that Craigslist has started stripping a large number of HTML tags from its postings. HTML is the Internet building language which provides colors, formatting and rich content we all now considered standard on the Internet. Just a few days ago, without warning Craigslist decided they would not allow much of HTML to be used in their postings. And the result is to make postings poorly formatted, less informative and an arduous experience for both the people who have something to offer and those who are looking for something.
To give a very practical example of what this change at Craigslist has done, I need to tell you about another very cool and free tool. Postlets. Postlets.com (owned by Zillow) is a tool that allows people in real estate activity to create attractive, informative, well-organized leaflets about their homes. Once a leaflet is created in Postlets, it once could be easily pasted into a Craigslist post. It was a perfect marriage. People searching for homes on Craigslist could now see what I offered in a well formatted, rich list of features and 25 pictures with captions. Details about the property and the lease well-organized and easy to digest. The Craigslist decision to strip HTML its ads has turned these postings into jumbled and simple text items void of pictures.
People love pictures. They are truly worth 1000 words. Image content is in fact, one of the most highly consumed types of content on the Internet. So when the ability of posters to offer images easily and the access of consumers to image content is reduced, both parties lose. Someone will be quick to say Craigslist does offer image posting with all its ads. True. What CL offers is 12 uncaptioned images with every post, and the process to upload them is slow and arduous. CL picture tool has improved over the years, but compared to the Postlets capability of integrating 25 captioned images the current Craigslist capability is seriously lagging technologically.
It could be the masters behind Craigslist have very good reasons for making this change. It may also seem very unfair for me to complain when, for many years I have gotten WAY more than I paid for from Craigslist. But on the surface, this change at Craigslist is a step back which hurts buyers and sellers. It seems to go against the fundamental mission of Craigslist to bring these parties together in exchange.
Maybe the Masters of Craigslist will have an answer in the coming days as to why they did this. Maybe there will be a discussion about restoring state-of-the-art content tools. Maybe some of us reading this can be part of the solution by asking Craigslist and Zillow to put their resources together for the benefit of the consumers.