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Craigslist takes down ability to insert HTML tags in listings, starting in Florida

While we’re still investigating how far this extends geographically and categorically, at least in Florida, Texas, Mass. and New York, and at least for rental and real estate classifications, HTML / rich-media features for Craigslist listings were severely curtailed this week, without notice. It seems to have begun on Monday in Southern Florida, spreading to Orlando and through the entire state by Wednesday.

Today, Friday, it seems to have spread elsewhere, so may well be on its way nationwide and for all categories in which any item is for sale – automotive, real estate, furniture, appliances, and so forth. The Craigslist HTML guidelines would suggest that to be the case, stating that “ IMG, FONT, TABLE, DIV, and SPAN tags are no longer supported in the for sale categories. Please use CL image upload for images.”

Those HTML tags let web designers display inset photos, change typographic attributes beyond Craigslist’s own design standards and reformat listings to their own liking.

It might not have been a gradual rollout, but simply one that only tech-savvy and highly-observant folks interested in specific classifications happened to notice in their classifications and locale, while others have yet to pick up on it. We are grateful to Peter Schuh, CEO and founder of real estate and rental service firm ShowMojo, for alerting us to the issue and clarifying what it all meant. ShowMojo offers a service for rental property owners and managers, leasing agents, and real estate agents and brokers, that helps them showcase and manage their listings on rental and real estate sites. Its flagship Scheduler Button is part of the ShowMojo template that uploads to listing ads, allowing prospective renters and buyers to go to online any time of day or night and schedule property showings. It was an integral and effective part of ShowMojo users’ Craigslist advertising – until Craigslist made its HTML change.

Nor do these changes effect only ShowMojo clients. We talked with another Realtor, who uses Listing-To-Leads as his automated template for ad placement. While we were on the phone he attempted to place a Craigslist ad and got the message that the HTML tags were no longer supported for this category.

“No pre-made templates are going to work for anyone,” Schuh told the AIM Group. “The codes don’t work at all. We lost the Scheduler Button and it’s not recoverable.”

The biggest problem is for those who haven’t picked up about the issue and simply are not aware that their ad links aren’t working, their logos aren’t showing, and so forth. Schuh said, however, that ads placed prior to the change seem to be working as before. It’s just when people edit them, renew them or place new ads after the tag changes that the problem arises. We’re still investigating. While we’ve inquired of Craigslist we’ve had no response so far.

ShowMojo actually put out a press release saying they quickly found a solution – not quite as snazzy, but workable. “We discovered how to get a clickable link back on Craigslist,” Schuh said.

The graphics below will show a pre-change Craigslist rich-media ad with Scheduler Button (on the left), followed by the post-change work around, with links out. Click on each to enlarge for better viewing. Do watch the tongue-in-cheek ShowMojo “Hurricane Craig” video.

It’s a shame that advertisers haven’t all picked up on changes that might be hurting ad response. Of course, Craigslist has a right to enforce its own HTML standards. All it would have taken was a blog post or press release. What happened to the community service Craigslist board members so often espouse?