Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Oodle Attack On Craigslist Falls Flat

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 2, 2011

Oodle, a classified ads site, recently financed a report that shows the extent of crime associated with Craigslist: "Crime and Craigslist: A sad tale of murders and more."

Here is an extract:

The "Craigslist killer." The "Craigslist serial killer." The diamond-ring killing in Edgewood, Wash. Those are a few of the 20 slayings - 12 of them during the last year alone - that have been linked to Craigslist ...

Robberies? Seventy-four during the last year.

Assaults? Thirty-one (at least).

All sorts of other crimes have been linked to Craigslist, too.

Our research counted 330 crimes in the United States linked by law enforcement to use of Craigslist from February, 2010, to February 2011. And we've probably missed more than a few.

That's a staggering number. We follow Craigslist closely, and have done so for almost 10 years. Even so, we were shocked by the volume of crime and the number of killings linked in some way to Craigslist and reported in newspapers or on television.

This is poor judgement on the part of Oodle. An attack on Craigslist by this technique reflects poorly on Oodle.

Kris Aston, writing on Josic, notes that others have also taken issue with Oodle.

Many around the net criticized Oodle for its seemingly underhanded tactics but Craig Donato, CEO of Oodle defended his company's actions saying the findings were not meant to be scientific but just a look at the news reports covering Craigslist's connection to crime.

Craigslist countered the report on their blog when Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist, said that the classified listings scraper/aggregator and CL wannabe Oodle has paid AIM Group to falsely portray craigslist as fraught with criminal activity.

The post went on to say that Craigslist had 550 times the amount of page views and 1000 the number of listings that Oodle had and that if Oodle had just one crime connected with it in a 12 month period, Oodle's crime rate would exceed that of Craigslist by almost two times.

That's an excellent point regarding the scale of Oodle versus Craigslist.

Craig Donato, writing on the Oodle blog, was unrepentant:

I strongly feel that sponsoring and promoting the report was the right thing for us to do. There is a serious issue in our industry -- one that deserves to be talked about. But I do regret the way the report was sensationalized.

Mr Donato said he wanted to draw attention to the problem of anonymity in the classified ads industry. But why pick on Craigslist? Why not look at the entire classified ads industry without having to single out a competitor?

Kris Ashton believes that revenge was on Oodle's mind, quoting an SVW article:

In 2005 Craigslist sent Oodle a cease-and-desist notice, demanding that they stop scraping Craiglist ads.

In an interview with Tom Foremski from Silicon Valley Watcher.com Buckmaster said that Oodle's aggressive scraping was putting a strain on their infrastructure and causing problems for users of the site while the benefits from such sites as Oodle amounted to about 0.5 percent and slowed down performance.

I don't buy the revenge theory, it's just a poorly thought-out marketing strategy.

Actually, I was surprised that Oodle is still around, I hadn't heard a peep about them for many years.


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