One of the most frustrating things about Craigslist is that you never have any idea where exactly something is located beyond a general region. Unless the person selling (or renting) a home is kind enough to list the address on the ad (which is rare), finding more information about a place’s location requires you to reach out and contact the vendor directly. This is all well and good, but how many times does this phone call and/or email end in disappointment? One person’s general idea of South Austin could be the next person’s North Austin.
Craigslist is testing an answer to this very problem on its San Francisco, CA and Portland, OR sites. By adding maps to listings in its Housing area, users can get an immediate answer to the one important question facing them as they search for the perfect home: Where is it?
In order to accomplish this, Craigslist turned to OpenStreetMap, an open source volunteer-powered street mapping database that enables users and businesses to create maps without the bothersome licensing fees or usage requirements found on some commercial mapping services.
Craigslist has had its own battles with third-party companies that use its listings data to generate maps of available housing — PadMapper being one I’m quite familiar with, having used and reviewed it myself. By putting maps on the listings themselves, it makes printing these ads and finding the location (once an appointment has been made, of course) much easier.
The implementation of OpenStreetMap on Craigslist needs a little polish, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’d love to see a map that includes all current listings as well as some extra functionality such as sending the location to your Android phone for turn-by-turn navigation, but perhaps those are yet to come. Hopefully, folks in my area will get access to this feature before my lease expires next spring. Fingers crossed!