PadMapper Gets Craigslist Postings Again, Without Craigslist’s Help

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Late last month, Craigslist dealt a big blow to apartment search website PadMapper, sending creator Eric DeMenthon a cease-and-desist letter demanding that he take down any Craigslist postings on his site. Now DeMenthon has found a way to bring Craigslist back to PadMapper, though not in the way he would have liked.

As you probably remember, PadMapper makes apartment listings from Craigslist and other services (including PadMapper’s own PadListings) much easier to navigate by displaying them on Google Map. The letter accused DeMenthon of violating Craigslist’s terms of use — he says that in discussions with the company’s lawyer, he was told that Craigslist doesn’t sell its data to websites, so at best he could buy a license to include the postings in a mobile app. For his part, DeMenthon maintained that PadMapper wasn’t doing Craigslist any harm (in fact, it was probably helping the site by directing more traffic to its listings), and he asked PadMapper fans to help convince Craigslist to change its mind.

There was a bit of an Internet outcry when the news went out, but it hasn’t made a noticeable difference in Craigslist’s position. Instead, DeMenthon says he found a workaround by partnering with 3taps to access “data about Craigslist postings.” Apparently the 3taps data isn’t subject to Craigslist’s restrictions, because it’s gathered “via indirect means.” The language here is a little confusing, but apparently it means Craigslist postings can return to PadMapper’s results, legally.

This solution probably won’t make Craigslist happy. DeMenthon says he has been told it’s “legally kosher since it doesn’t touch their servers at all,” but he also admits that “it still seems somewhat dickish to go against their wishes in this.” So why do it? He writes:

“I did some back of the envelope estimates of how much of people’s time and effort it would waste if I didn’t, and it became clear how much less nice it is to waste the time of millions of apartment hunters out of stubbornness or some clearly inaccurate assumption about the will of the community. If it takes half of PadMapper’s millions of monthly users 3 hours longer now to find an apartment, that’s over 350 man-years wasted per month, or 5 lifetimes. That really pisses me off.”

I’ve emailed Craigslist for comment and will update if I hear back.