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Jim Buckmaster Q&A: Why Craigslist banned listpic

Yesterday Craigslist blocked listpic, a website that lets you browse classifieds on Craigslist through a graphical interface. In other words, you could browse by photos instead of text-based links -- a feature we've since learned Craiglist may be adding to its own site (read below).

While it was pretty clear that listpic was violating Craiglist's terms of service, the site was awfully useful, and many users said they found themselves spending a lot more time browsing classifieds because of it. Listpic founder Ryan Sit has been engaged in a back and forth with Craigslist founder Craig Newmark in the user forums.

We wanted to get to the bottom of the issues, so we shot out an email to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster. Here are his responses:

Brad Linder
: My understanding is that Listpic violates Craigslist terms of service because it is a derivative work, which is prohibited. Is this correct, and if so, why did you wait until now to block the site?

Jim Buckmaster: several violations, including mass harvesting of content for re-display. enforcement actions are prioritized according to the harm being caused.

BL: How serious were the bandwidth problems listpic was causing?

each page load on listpic was consuming at least 20x more craigslist server resources than the same page would if it were efficiently implemented in-house -- not fair to the 99.9% of our users who are accessing craigslist natively, and experiencing periodic image-loading outages/issues as a result of this external service being used by 0.1% of craigslist users

BL: Had you corresponded with Ryan Sit at listpic before blocking the site?

JM: i had not - there is no way for a 3rd party to offer such a service that would make efficient use of our server resources and comply with our terms of use, so there wasn't a lot to talk about, other than "please stop"

BL: Many users say they found themselves perusing more classifieds because of listpic... did you notice any increase in traffic after listpic became popular?

JM: overall traffic was likely reduced due to server resource contention - activity by 0.1% of users slowing down access for the other 99.9%

BL: Some have questioned whether this is really about bandwidth, or the fact that listpic was generating advertising revenue based on Craiglist ads. Did that play any role in your decision?

JM: some of our users told us they felt it was exploitative and tacky, but it was not central to this decision

BL: In the user forums, you said that you "like the visual aspect," do you have any plans to implement your own graphical interface for Craiglist in the future?

JM: we do plan to offer an image-browsing interface

BL: Are there any circumstances under which you could see yourselves allowing listpic to start up again in the future?

JM: no

Ryan Sit says he was unaware that he was causing any bandwidth problems for Craiglist, and that the reason he had advertising on the site was to pay for servers, IT, and bandwidth costs.

Sit says he'd be willing to remove the ads if there were another way to pay for the costs.

Tags: classifieds, craig newmark, craiglist, CraigNewmark, listpic, news