Popular classified ad platform Craigslist has just released native iOS and Android apps. For almost a quarter century, Craigslist has only been available on the World Wide Web.
By Chand Bellur
December 6, 2019 at 2:11 p.m. PDT
Craigslist Delivers iOS and Android Apps
If you’ve ever sold anything, you’re probably familiar with Craigslist. It’s also commonly used to buy just about everything, in addition to connecting people with similar interests. If you’re a musician in search of band members, Craigslist is one of the best options. Need a dog walker? Craigslist can find one.
Craigslist’s main advantage is being closely tied to localities. When you’re on Craigslist, you’re looking to interact with people in your community. This is vastly different from eBay or Amazon, where users connect internationally. If you’re looking for someone to paint your house, international attention simply muddles the interaction.
Given its enormous success, it’s hard to believe that Craigslist has never developed native smartphone apps. That changed this week, as the San Francisco based company finally released new smartphone apps for iOS and Android. The Android app is currently in beta.
Is the Native App Different From the Web App?
Native apps run directly on the operating system, or, in the case of Android, in a java virtual machine. iOS apps such as Safari, Instagram and others are considered native.
A web apps runs on a browser, which runs on an operating system. While this may appear to be less efficient, it depends on how the comparable native app is designed.
Many native apps simply instantiate stripped down web browsers, all which use Apple’s WebKit engine. Even though you download an app through the App Store, and it appears to be a native app, it may just be a browser discretely connecting to a web app.
Even if the native app has a custom thick-client, if it does anything on the Internet, it’s likely communicating with a web services layer. Sure, the UI is native, but all of the heavy lifting is done by web services.
The Craigslist app for iOS and Android looks and works exactly like the website. Since one needs to be connected to the Internet to post or read Craigslist listings, offline usage isn’t tremendously helpful.
Why Develop Smartphone Apps Now?
Cellular coverage is ubiquitous and mobile browsers are almost as good as their desktop counterparts. Nonetheless, it makes perfect sense for Craigslist to develop smartphone apps. For one, some users prefer native apps. Even though the differences are largely academic, the flow of downloading apps from the App Store is like a reflex. Going to a website seems old fashioned for some.
The PR value of the move is where the real value lies. Developing and maintaining smartphone apps for two platforms is a daunting task. The effort hasn’t gone unnoticed. This site, and many others are reporting on the new Craigslist apps. Their stubborn resolve to stay solely on the web has finally acquiesced. Even with competition from Google, eBay and Amazon for local peer-to-peer transactions, Craigslist has managed to persevere. The move to native apps tells the world that they’re still here and are part of the mobile app revolution.