You don’t hear much about Craiglist these days. It seems to be on a kind of autopilot, an internet 1.0 company that keeps chugging — or coasting — along.
If I’m not mistaken the UX hasn’t changed meaningfully in a decade — the UI is the brand — and there’s no official mobile app. One gets the sense the site is on autopilot. In a way why not? The company continues to have significant traffic (63 million monthly uniques) and modest overhead.
Craigslist used to symbolize a kind of integrity in the face of widespread commercialization of the internet. Now it may instead represent a kind of indifference and complacency in the face of changing markets and user behavior.
There was a time when Craigslist could have sold for more than $1 billion pretty easily to someone like eBay. Not selling was a political statement of sorts. I once heard Craig say “My endgame is death,” a morbidly humorous retort to someone who asked the question at a Google event.
Though it still has massive usage, it’s not clear what the endgame is or if there is one. Will the site just continue to operate and make money until it simply doesn’t anymore?
Craigslist is currently number 34 on the comScore top 50 list. That’s certainly impressive; however it has fallen from its peak. Back in 2010 for example, Craigslist was the 19th most visited site on the internet.
While there are many verticals and competitors that have eroded its traffic and position — we switched our classified activity to Nextdoor and others — it has enough critical mass to keep going for some time. Nonetheless it’s hard to imagine, without changes and attention to the UX (especially in mobile), this can continue for many more years.
A more extreme case of something similar is Citysearch. I was discussing this example with someone today. At one point Citysearch was a dominant local internet brand with many millions of users. Then Yelp arrived and slowly but surely surpassed it, much in the same way that Facebook eventually overtook and killed MySpace.
For years Citysearch (and related properties such as InsiderPages) have been largely neglected by corporate parent IAC, which invested in ad network Citygrid but let Citysearch languish. Citygrid has largely been superseded by programmatic, while Citysearch has a fraction of its former traffic and little brand value accordingly.
To survive over time internet companies must keep reinvesting, unless they don’t care. That’s my sense of what’s going on at Craiglist: they’ve stopped caring.
What do you think will happen? How many more years can Craigslist survive in status-quo mode?