(Ongoing Thinking Out Loud based on the conversation spawned by this post)
So my question for Craigslist is this: Once Yahoo or Google decide to do a vertical listings engine – and they will, at some point or in some fashion – will Craigslist bar them as well?
If the answer is a consistent yes, then we understand what Craigslist’s strategy is. In essence: a walled garden. They are building a self contained community that does not want to be part of the search economy. That’s fine, though I could argue at length it’s not a very wise strategy, but they have to right to pursue it.
However, right now, Craigslist is on the fence. Vertical aggregators like Indeed are OK, and extremely generalized engines like Google are OK.
This raises an interesting question with regard to GoogleBase: Will Oodle – or anyone else – be able to crawl its contents? My guess is no. While Google is extremely aggressive about its right to crawl anything it can, it will most likely act like an owner when it comes to content – and metadata – it hosts on GoogleBase.
Oodle founder Craig Donato was genuinely puzzled as to why Craigslist has asked Oodle to stop – and despite the comments in the last thread, which claim Oodle is a parasite, I see his puzzlement. Why stop Oodle, but not Indeed, or other aggregators? Is it because Oodle indexes all of Craigslist? Perhaps, but where’s the harm?When you look at Oodle’s model, it’s all about pushing traffic back to Craigslist, in fact, the only way you can execute on the content you’ve found via Oodle is to go to Craigslist – a familliar model – it’s the whole premise of search.
So, if Craiglist lets Google and Yahoo crawl its listings (I presume – hard to know till Craig or Jim Buckmaster decide to engage in a conversation about this…), why does it have a problem with Oodle?
Most likely, because Craigslist sees a day when folks might go direct to Oodle to post listings, bypassing Craigslist altogether. Oodle already takes listings as a feed – clearly targeted to listings sites, rather than individuals – but that could change.
However, I think cutting off Oodle is shortsighted. It’s the content debate all over again. What should Craigslist be doing? As a user of the service, which I love by the way, I can think of a very long list.
Craigslist should focus on making its service better. Much, much better. It has a community, it has a brand, but damn if it isn’t near impossible to find stuff if you don’t already know your way around. The internal search is awful, and it’s impossible to find things across regions (unless, of course, you used Oodle, which now you can’t….). It’s also impossible to post across regions, and I sure wish you could. The interface – both for posters as well as searchers – is rudimentary and not intuitive. The better the service gets, the more unique it will be, the more valuable, and therefore the more difficult to disintermediate. In short, make the content better, and it will win. Services like Oodle will only make your content shine, just as Google News makes the NYT shine, for the most part.
A final thought on GoogleBase. If Google is really, really serious about this – that instead of going the Google News route with listings, it plans instead to get folks to post their stuff to GoogleBase – it marks a significant departure for the company: It will become a publisher, a competitor in the content creation and management game, which places it in direct competition with the multitudes who feed and feed off the main Google search engine. Watch. This. Space.
– GoogleBase update here from SEW.