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Craigslist tightens data spigot

Craigslist is turning off the data taps, a potentially foreboding sign for cloud and mobile app developers.

The Verge’s Louis Goddard reports that the online classifieds giant has informed search engines that it no longer wants its posts to be indexed. That decision blocks the 3Taps API and damages PadMapper, the popular consumer apartment rental site that displays Craigslist postings on Google Maps.

Goddard adds that Craigslist has been in court with both PadMapper and 3Taps, seeking to bar both from using Craigslist postings for their own purposes. PadMapper will now try and gather its own listings through PadLister, but it’s unclear whether the new service will be able to step in and fill Craigslist’s role.

The unanimous opinion in the blogs is that Craigslist is severely injuring itself. It doesn’t take an expert to explain that site traffic will go down without Google and Bing. Craigslist also loses any traffic that was generated by PadMapper users coming to Craigslist to explore listings further.

The question for developers becomes – if Craigslist is willing to cripple itself to shutoff third-party apps, will others be willing to do the same?

Twitter’s director of consumer products, Michael Sippey, wrote a letter that had developer’s panicking about the prospect of increasingly stringent API rules back in June. Mike Isaac of AllThingsD explained that the changes are likely designed to create a more “consistent Twitter experience for every user.”

But, he also rightfully noted that yes, minor changes to Twitter’s guidelines could drastically affect thousands of apps and the people who make their living building them.

There’s no clear answer as to what is going to happen next, but the app economy that relies on data passing through open APIs is only as lively as the APIs are open. It is seemingly irrational for the data providers to want to hurt the third-party developers that build off of their services, but as the Craigslist case shows, rationality doesn’t always win out.

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[...] social media platform based on an open Web API. A sidebar to all this is the earlier Craig’s List mini-brouhaha surrounding its attempts to close up its data listing URLs that are being repurposed by Web [...]