Everything that is wrong with Craigslist

Posted by David The Expert on: Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Topic: Internet     Read 15,315 Times

Craigslist's own refusal to change with the times is killing it.

It's 2014 now, and Craigslist is almost identical to its 2006 form when it first launched. But it looks like it was designed in 1999. And the same problems that plagued it back then, like spammers and scammers, still exist today in even greater numbers. They have appeared to make absolutely no effort to improve any aspect of the site since 2006.

User Interface
There's something to be said for clean and simple interfaces. They make it quick and easy to get right to what you're looking for. Craigslist does not fit this definition. Craigslist shows a plain text list of all the posts that match your filter criteria, in chronological order. And that's it. And that's all it's done since 2006. It's not intuitive, it's not easy to find what you're looking for, it's impossible to sort, and the filtering functionality is pathetic. You can basically filter by location and keyword, and that's it. And if the keyword you are searching for does not match a word in the post 100%, it will not match and it will be excluded from your results. This is not a good way to find what you're looking for.

And the post titles on Craigslist are horrendous. They allow all-caps in the titles, excessive exclamation points, and even weird unicode symbols (like ☂☓☠☢☨☺♠), all of which make it incredibly inconsistent and difficult to read. It's really not that hard to write a script that tells the user, "hey, 98% of the characters in your title are capitalized. Why don't you try that again?"

Spam, spam, and more spam
Craigslist has a couple of spam prevention methods in place to prevent people from posting things they shouldn't. These methods range from ineffective to excessive, with nothing in between.

First, you can only post 3 times per 24 hour period, across any of the categories. This is just blatantly stupid. A website like Craigslist NEEDS to have a constant flow of content to be worthwhile to the people reading it. As long I'm not posting the same thing every time, why shouldn't I be able to advertise all 10 of my dirty sofas for sale? By the time I reach my posting quota, I will immediately think of posting my other 7 sofas on competing web services. Oh and by the way, if you exceed your 3 posts per day limit, you will be completely locked out of posting to Craigslist for another full 48 hours.

Secondly, there is a phone verification system before you can make a post or make an account. This system SUCKS. You can choose to have it send you an automated code via a voice call or text message. But guess what. If you select text message, you get a phone call anyway. Useless. And if you use a VOIP phone provider, you can forget about ever posting to Craigslist, because it will refuse to send a verification code to any VOIP phone number for some unknown reason. And by the time you figure this out, you will have reached Craigslist's arbitrary 3 attempts per day rule. If you don't get your code, or if you miss the call the first time, you only get 3 attempts before it locks you out from even trying to verify your phone for the rest of the day, which means no posting for you.

And finally, if you manage to make it past those crazy limitations, you are thrown to the wolves of Craigslist's flagging system. If a few people flag your post, that's it, it's gone. There is no review system at all. No oversight, no logic. Just a little flag button that says "prohibited?" that any anonymous user is free to press at will. This means that anyone can decide to gang up on a post and have it removed immediately. It also means that the more popular a category is, the more likely its posts are to get removed by the community, because the minimum number of flags to remove the post does not change. So if someone posts a disgusting spam-filled message under an unpopular category for a small town, it may never get flagged. But if someone makes a normal post in a popular category within a big city like New York City, it may be removed in a matter of minutes!

And the worst part? Craigslist is STILL full of spam! These prevention methods just don't work. They have been around for years, and spammers have found a million and one ways to easily get around them. And Craigslist, for some insane reason, has not bothered to modernize or replace these spam prevention methods with creative new ones that work. They haven't even tried to fix them to leave legitimate posters alone. Of course spammers will always find ways around spam prevention methods, but there is absolutely no reason that I should have to see 15 identical posts every time I log into Craigslist. That's just absurd.

So what's happening to Craigslist? They are welcoming more and more spammers and scammers due to their incredibly weak spam prevention methods, all the while scaring away more and more legitimate users who only wanted to give away their old coffee table but discovered that they would have to dump their cheap VOIP phone and buy a cell phone plan just to make a post.

Low Quality Content
The quality of the posts on Craigslist are of about the same quality as the website itself. In an ideal world, I would visit Craigslist to find cheap or free furniture, or people, or other things. But in reality, I only go there to find people who want to steal my social security number, people who want me to send them naked pictures, and people who want to steal my money.

It makes me angry that Craigslist seems to have done nothing at all to improve the quality of the posts it allows. It also seems that many people agree, and have stopped using Craigslist altogether.

David The Expert

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