Andrew Parker of USV created a great image highlighting “The Spawn of Craigslist“:
In the comments, Andrew added:
“I’m pretty certain that 70-80% of CL’s traffic is in the Personals section. And, I’m pretty certain they’re not all heading to the “platonic” side of personals ;)”
To which I responded:
I think your comment about craigslist’s traffic being dominated by personals really highlights what they are best at: connecting people. But it’s worth noting that a lot of the categories they support are more specifically about completing transactions, not just connecting people. And I think that it’s this gulf that has created so much opportunity for new start-ups.
And then expanded:
Maybe ‘completing transactions’ was the wrong phrase to use as I see exchanging money to be just one part of what’s missing. Scheduling support is another. As is vetting the quality and trustworthiness of the service provider you’re hiring. And it’s not just an issue for consumers: a common complaint we hear from our service providers about Craigslist is that they are forced to compete solely on price due to the lack of a profile system for them to accrue and project reputation.
Most of the benefits that Craigslist has over traditional, newspaper classifieds come from the platform that it is built on rather than any improvements they’ve made to classified ads as a product–negligible costs of production & publication, ease of search, and genuine anonymity are all properties of the internet as a whole. That said, improving upon the product is just part of the challenge facing start-ups trying to carve out a niche for themselves. That Craigslist provides so much value is ultimately a testament to the power of network effects–and creating a vibrant community is the other enabling factor for sparking a truly viable alternative.
Trying to carve out a niche from Craigslist is no small feat.