Category Archives: Websites

Taking on Craigslist

Craigslist is a website a bit behind in the times that fails to offer basic features to help users find things or avoid scams. Padmapper is a website that allows people to find listings from Craiglist (and other sites) on Google Maps. Recently, CL sent Padmapper  a cease-and-desist letter to stop displaying CL results. Whenever a site becomes successful building off CL listings, they get sent this letter. CL as a website is quite poor, but they have a huge user base that makes it very difficult for a competitor to gain a foothold in the market. Both buyers and sellers just go to CL, since, despite its poor quality, everyone else is there. The easy way for companies to win is to display (a.k.a “steal”) part of CL’s listings so buyers will immediately find a useful website, and then they can get sellers later to list on their site. To prevent this from happening, CL needs to send out legal letters whenever a site starts becoming big. For example, in 2005, CL sent Oodle this letter.

The Cease-and-Desist letter normally results in the website complying, and that was what Padmapper’s CEO  initially said he would do. However, he just did an about-face and announced he would be using a possible loophole to continue providing the data. Instead of scraping the results from CL, he would use, which gets their results from Google’s cache of CL. I don’t know how that will play out legally, and it seems to be a shady move, but its potnetially good for the user. While CL is all “noble” about having free listings without even requiring an account or any identification, their site ends up being filled with scammers and spammers. If companies find a way to create successful alternatives to CL, the user will benefit.

Google & Microsoft Cloud-Drives

In the last post, I mentioned how I didn’t think Chrome OS could compete well with Windows until it came with more offline features. I think laptops in the near future will still come with full offline capabilities, but they will be seamlessly sync’d with the cloud, so one’s files will be backed-up and available from everywhere.

The Big Two have just launched new syncing products. Today, Google announced the long-rumored Google Drive, which will provide everyone with 5GB  free of sync’d desktop-cloud storage. Google Docs and Drive will merge, so people will be able to edit their documents from everywhere.  This beats having to download files from Dropbox to do some quick edits on a different computer.

Yesterday, Microsoft also announced their new version of SkyDrive, which will integrate better with Windows 8. They used to provide 5GB of sync’d storage (through Live Mesh) and 25GB of standard online storage for free, but now they’re changing it all to 7GB of free storage. However, current users can claim their free 25GB from the online SkyDrive if they do so quickly. Microsoft also got rid of the ability to sync multiple folders, to make it easier for SkyDrive to work on various devices. By providing one service, it will make things simpler for people, and they will also allow for online editing of sync’d files, which wasn’t available  before.

This means both Microsoft and Google will be offering very similar services, so one of the big differences will be Office Web Apps vs. Google Docs. It seems unlikely that Dropbox will be able to compete well with them, since they cannot offer online editing capabilities and they charge far more for additional storage. Stay tuned for a comparison of  Google Docs with Microsoft’s offerings…

Facebook Returns to Roots

Facebook recently launched Groups for Schools, a new community feature that lets people create groups exclusively for other people in their university.  This is a return to the time when Facebook used to be exclusively for students at  universities, though now its just a small feature of an 800-million person network. However, it has a lot of potential. It is often difficult for college students to find other people in their major or get information about certain classes. This will become much easier, assuming enough students sign up for the relevant groups. It will also be able to be used as a classifieds site for rides, roommates, textbooks and more. In a later post I’ll provide some more details.

Suggestions for Improving Google Products

Since Gmail “listened” to my suggestions last time, I figured I would write some more ideas for improving popular Google products:

Gmail –  Email is not just another open tab in someone’s browser, but a basic function of the internet. There are many different tasks people switch between while using email, i.e reading, writing and searching. For example I might be writing an email to someone, and realize I need to do an email search to check a previous email I sent. Gmail should allow people to do these different tasks within one Gmail tab so they do not need to  perform these 3 steps each time: create a new tab, go to, and then go to the task they want. At the very least, they should  allow people to perform a search or compose a new email in a new tab, so they don’t need to wait for to load before doing what they want.

In the meantime, in Chrome, I can search my Gmail from Chrome’s address bar, and I created a bookmark of  the “compose email” page, so I don’t need to wait for to load.

Calendar – Similarly, in Google Calendar, it would be nice if you could do everything from the main page. While one can create an event and set the time without going to a new page, it requires an additional click and page load to edit the event details. It would be nice if that could also be done in the same step as adding en event.

Also, the calendar view is restricted to the various styles of traditional dead-tree calendars. However, at the end of a month, most people probably want to see the beginning of the next month rather than the previous 3 weeks. The calendar should allow other weeks to be shown at the top besides the first week in the month. It should also allow one to specify how many weeks they want displayed.

Docs – Speaking of dead-trees, Docs should also let one switch off “page-view” mode. If Desktop Word has a “web layout”, shouldn’t online Google Docs?  While they let one get rid of the large space between pages, it would be convenient to be able to resize the view to any size, not just the width of a page.

To compete well with Word, I think they will need to provide full offline access, not just view-only mode. Most people don’t use the various complexities in Word, so that feature should be enough. (They already offer arguably better sharing and collaboration features.)

Chrome – One thing I miss from Chrome that used to exist on Firefox is ironically the Google Toolbar. One of the main features I liked was the ability to click on Google search keywords to find them in a web result. Chrome has a different option here, but it doesn’t let you choose when to view it, so it often fails to show up or just gets in the way. To find a keyword, there’s always ctrl-F, but then you have to retype (or paste) the word you’re looking for.

Another thing I missed from Firefox was the Smart Bar, which was able to suggest the most-visited websites right when I start typing them. A reader pointed out that this can be enabled in Chrome by making sure your Google account is connected to Chrome in settings. (I hadn’t noticed that it had become disconnected when I changed my password a few months ago.)

Although these are mostly minor points, it would be nice if Google implemented some of these features. Maybe I’ll mention it to them…