Friday, August 31, 2012

Bad market design by design at U of Central Florida...and Craigslist?

Course registration can be a pain, but at the University of Central Florida they apparently don't want anyone trying to make it easier: Student Is Punished for Creating Class-Registration Web

"A student at the University of Central Florida has been placed on academic probation for creating a Web site that tells students when a seat becomes available in a given class.

"Tim Arnold, a senior at Central Florida, built the U Could Finish site this year. The site became available in June, but, within days, was blocked from accessing the university site without notice. The Office of Student Conduct then told Mr. Arnold that he had violated university policy regarding technology use..."

It's easier to see how Craigslist might have a legitimate interest in preventing entrepreneurs from developing superior front ends (recall eBay vs. Bidder's Edge): The SF Chronicle has the story.
3taps, PadMapper face Craigslist challenge

"Kidd's 3taps and a website that uses the data it collects, PadMapper, are the latest in a long line of Web developers to face legal action from Craigslist, the San Francisco company that has dominated the online classified advertising market for 17 years. Since 2008, at least three dozen similar services such as MapsKreig, Craiglook and CraigsFish have received cease-and-desist letters from Craigslist, most for building websites that presented Craigslist listings in ways they considered to be more dynamic, visually appealing and helpful.
"Craigslist has never added features such as mapping, videos and mobile apps, or any other tools that would improve user experiences. It still sorts items in chronological order, and doesn't allow nationwide searches of all its local websites at once. Its reluctance to update its Web services has opened the door for Kidd and other developers like him.

"Some of the developers shut down by Craigslist pulled data directly from its website, but 3taps uses a novel approach - searching Craigslist through Google, copying the data off Google, reordering it and then formatting it in a way other websites can easily display. PadMapper uses content generated by 3taps for its mapping services.

"Kidd noted that Craigslist chooses to allow price, location and description information from listings to appear on Google. As a result, he said, it shouldn't be allowed to stop other websites from displaying the same information in unique maps and tables. And the online classifieds leader certainly can't claim that data points as crucial to commerce as prices, locations and basic descriptions can be copyrighted.

"Legal experts say presenting the entirety of listings in the same format as Craigslist would be troublesome, but that's not what PadMapper is doing. And a 1991 case dealing with phone books suggests that the bare-bones data in listings is not subject to copyright law, these experts say.
"Craigslist and its lawyers did not respond to requests for comment. In the lawsuit, Craigslist says that "the originality, simplicity, and clarity" of its website "are fundamental to Craigslist's reputation and garner substantial and valuable goodwill with users." 

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