If there’s one thing Craigslist is known for, it’s most certainly not their modern and stylistic design. Over the past decade they’ve barely changed their face, many would consider this the beauty of the site. Looks can be deceiving however; behind closed doors Craigslist developers are hard at work. The results both good and bad have been discovered by many users. With over twenty billion page views per month there is good reason for many of these updates. Drawing this many users from all over the world comes at the price of spam, lots and lots of spam.
Upon its creation, Craigslist limited its users in very few ways. At first there were little issues with unwanted posts, as the site wasn’t very well known. After growing into one of the largest online classified sites in the world their situation changed in substantial ways. Craigslist began to fight this spam through limiting posts by both accounts and IP addresses. As the battle between developers and spammers amplified, so did the restrictions for posting. Most recently they introduced what may have been their most significant update ever, the phone verification system.
The phone verification system requires a user to enter a random code provided via a text or call to the phone number submitted by said user. In entering this number correctly the user has a phone verified account (PVA), allowing them to post in certain restricted areas. At first this began exclusively in the erotic services section, after being tested for about a month it was later enforced elsewhere. The implementation of phone verification reduced the amount of ads posted in a very drastic way. The spammers who once had collections of accounts to post with now only had as many accounts as they had verified phone numbers. As a result, spammers began searching for sources of verifiable phone numbers.
Voice over IP (VoIP) has become very widely adopted over recent years; this rapid growth isn’t likely to end any time soon. The ease at which a person can get a phone number at very low cost makes it easy to see its extreme gain in popularity. This same ease is VoIP’s downfall with Craigslist, as any spammer’s first instinct would be to exploit this service. It is for this reason companies like Skype, Vonage, and other companies offering VoIP services have had all of their numbers blocked from Craigslist’s phone verification system.
The legitimate users who have adopted VoIP pay the price for this restriction, as they cannot verify a Craigslist account with their own phone number. Preventatives in place to increase the quality of the site’s content became a steel wall to crash into for certain users. The results have been great for those able to verify an account, no doubt; but it begs the question, what percentage of blocked users merits Craigslist’s attention?