George Eid, founder and CEO of Krrb.com, says that Craigslist has been putting his startup “through the ringer” since February and threatening it with lawsuits, in a phone call with Business Insider.
Krrb (pronounced “curb”) is what Eid describes as a “hyper-local” service, a re-make of the old Penny Saver or newspaper classified ads of yesteryear. It shows people lists of items for sales within a three-block radius of their location.
The site now boasts about 40,000 users, with 100-200 joining daily, Eid says.
But it allegedly ran afoul with Craigslist when it added a feature it called the “Krrb It” button. That button allowed users to access their own Craigslist account to easily copy their own Craigslist ad onto Krrb.
According to Eid, Craigslist got wind of the button and sent the company a cease-and-desist letter, claiming that the button was encouraging Craigslist users to violate their terms of service. Eid sent Business Insider a copy of that alleged letter.
In Eid’s mind, Craigslist fears sites that bolt-on interfaces to its listings because this pulls buyers away from the main Craigslist site. Once alternative sites have buyers, it’s easy for them to get sellers, he tells Business Insider.
Craigslist is currently in a court battle with PadMapper over just this issue. PadMapper takes apartment listings from Craiglist and elsewhere and puts it on a map. As part of that suit, in July 2012, Craigslist changed its terms of service to say that Craigslist has “exclusive” rights to its users’ listings, forbidding them from posting their items elsewhere. User uproar ensued, so it pulled that wording out of its TOS.
But today, Craigslist terms of service still says:
“Any copying, aggregation, display, distribution, performance or derivative use of craigslist or any content posted on craigslist whether done directly or through intermediaries (including but not limited to by means of spiders, robots, crawlers, scrapers, framing, iframes or RSS feeds) is prohibited.”
Yesterday, Krrb made the hard decision to let Craigslist have its way.
“We disabled the Krrb It button. We did what they asked. We cannot afford a lawsuit. I’ve spoken with many other startups that had to deal with this. There are horror stories that Craigslist will keep you in [the expensive] discovery [phase of a lawsuit] for the next two years,” he told us.
But he’s not being quiet about it. Yesterday Eid posted an open letter to Craigslist founder Craig Newmark to step in and do something about what he feels is Buckmaster’s unfair tactics. He wrote:
“As I read this threatening letter, my feelings were a mixture of fear, excitement and confusion. Fear, of course, because nobody wants to be sued by an Internet giant; excitement because Craigslist had taken notice of my fledgling start-up; confusion because I simply didn’t know how we could be “violating a multitude of laws” given the nature of our Krrb It button.”
The letter is gaining notice, too. Although Krrb is not a Y Combinator startup, Y Combinator cofounder Paul Graham is a friend and he retweeted the letter this morning.
Likewise, another friend, Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar and Buzzcar tweeted it and emailed it to Newmark, Eid told us. Newmark has not yet responded to Eid. We’ve asked Craigslist for comment and will update if the company responds.
Here’s Chase’s tweet:
— Robin Chase (@rmchase) July 2, 2013
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