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Craigslist – Wikipedia

Craigslist reenshot of the main page on January 26, 2008Type of businessPrivately held companyType of siteClassifieds, forumsAvailable inEnglish, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, PortugueseFounded1995; 26 years ago (incorporated 1999)HeadquartersSan Francisco, California, U. S. [1]Area served570 cities in 70 countriesFounder(s)Craig NewmarkKey peopleJim Buckmaster (CEO)ServicesWeb communicationsRevenue US$694 million (2016)Net income US$500 million (2016)Employees50 (2017)URL2]Launched1995; 26 years agoCurrent statusActiveWritten inPerl[3]
Craigslist (stylized as craigslist) is an American classified advertisements website with sections devoted to jobs, housing, for sale, items wanted, services, community service, gigs, résumés, and discussion forums.
Craig Newmark began the service in 1995 as an email distribution list to friends, featuring local events in the San Francisco Bay Area. It became a web-based service in 1996 and expanded into other classified categories. It started expanding to other U. and Canadian cities in 2000, and now covers 70 countries.
In March 2008, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese became the first non-English languages Craigslist supported. [4] As of August 9, 2012, over 700 cities and areas in 70 countries had Craigslist sites. [5] Some Craigslist sites cover large regions instead of individual metropolitan areas—for example, the U. states of Delaware and Wyoming, the Colorado Western Slope, the California Gold Country, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan are among the locations with their own Craigslist sites. [6] Craigslist sites for some large cities, such as Los Angeles, also include the ability for the user to focus on a specific area of a city (such as central Los Angeles).
History[edit]
Having observed people helping one another in friendly, social, and trusting communal ways on the Internet via the WELL, MindVox and Usenet, and feeling isolated as a relative newcomer to San Francisco, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark decided to create something similar for local events. [7][8] In early 1995, he began an email distribution list to friends. Most of the early postings were submitted by Newmark and were notices of social events of interest to software and Internet developers living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Soon, word of mouth led to rapid growth. The number of subscribers and postings grew rapidly. There was no moderation and Newmark was surprised when people started using the mailing list for non-event postings. [9] People trying to get technical positions filled found that the list was a good way to reach people with the skills they were looking for. This led to the addition of a jobs category. User demand for more categories caused the list of categories to grow. The initial technology encountered some limits, so by June 1995 Majordomo had been installed and the mailing list “Craigslist” resumed operations. Community members started asking for a web interface. Newmark registered “”, and the website went live in 1996. [9]
In the fall of 1998, the name “List Foundation” was introduced and Craigslist started transitioning to the use of this name. In April 1999, when Newmark learned of other organizations called “List Foundation”, the use of this name was dropped. Craigslist incorporated as a private for-profit company in 1999. [7] Around the time of these events, Newmark realized the site was growing so fast that he could stop working as a software engineer and devote his full attention to running Craigslist. By April 2000, there were nine employees working out of Newmark’s San Francisco apartment. [10]
In January 2000, current CEO Jim Buckmaster joined the company as lead programmer and CTO. Buckmaster contributed the site’s multi-city architecture, search engine, discussion forums, flagging system, self-posting process, homepage design, personals categories, and best-of-Craigslist feature. He was promoted to CEO in November 2000. [11]
The website expanded into nine more U. cities in 2000, four in 2001 and 2002 each, and 14 in 2003. On August 1, 2004, Craigslist began charging $25 to post job openings on the New York and Los Angeles pages. On the same day, a new section called “Gigs” was added, where low-cost and unpaid jobs can be posted free.
Operations[edit]
The site serves more than 20 billion[12] page views per month, putting it in 72nd place overall among websites worldwide and 11th place overall among websites in the United States (per on June 28, 2016), with more than 49. 4 million unique monthly visitors in the United States alone (per on January 8, 2010). With more than 80 million new classified advertisements each month, Craigslist is the leading classifieds service in any medium.
The site receives more than 2 million new job listings each month, making it one of the top job boards in the world. [13][14] The 23 largest U. cities listed on the Craigslist home page collectively receive more than 300, 000 postings per day just in the “for sale” and “housing” sections as of October 2011. [15] The classified advertisements range from traditional buy/sell ads and community announcements to personal ads.
In 2009, Craigslist operated with a staff of 28 people. [16]
Financials and ownership[edit]
In December 2006, at the UBS Global Media Conference in New York, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster told Wall Street analysts that Craigslist had little interest in maximizing profit, and instead preferred to help users find cars, apartments, jobs and dates. [17][18]
Craigslist’s main source of revenue is paid job ads in select American cities. The company does not formally disclose financial or ownership information. Analysts and commentators have reported varying figures for its annual revenue, ranging from $10 million in 2004, $20 million in 2005, and $25 million in 2006 to possibly $150 million in 2007. [19][20][21] Fortune has described their revenue model as “quasi-socialist”, citing their focus on features for users regardless of profitability. Eric Baker of StubHub has described the site as a “potential gold mine of revenue, if only it would abandon its communist manifesto. “[19]
On August 13, 2004, Newmark announced on his blog that auction giant eBay had purchased a 25% stake in the company from a former employee. [22] Some fans of Craigslist expressed concern that this development would affect the site’s longtime non-commercial nature. As of April 2012, there have been no substantive changes to the usefulness, or the non-advertising nature of the site; neither banner ads, nor charges for a few services provided to businesses.
The company was believed to be owned principally by Newmark, Buckmaster and eBay (the three board members). eBay owned approximately 25%, and Newmark is believed to own the largest stake. [6][21][23]
In April 2008, eBay announced it was suing Craigslist to “safeguard its four-year financial investment”. eBay claimed that in January 2008, Craigslist executives took actions that “unfairly diluted eBay’s economic interest by more than 10%”. [24] Craigslist filed a counter-suit in May 2008 to “remedy the substantial and ongoing harm to fair competition” that Craigslist claimed was constituted by eBay’s actions as Craigslist shareholders; the company claimed that it had used its minority stake to gain access to confidential information, which it then used as part of its competing service Kijiji. [25][26]
On June 19, 2015, eBay Inc. announced that it would divest its stake back to Craigslist for an undisclosed amount, and settle its litigation with the company. The move came shortly before eBay’s planned spin-off of PayPal, and an effort to divest other units to focus on its core business. [25]
The Swedish luxury marketplace website received a lawsuit filed on July 11, 2012[27] which among unspecified damages also asked for a complete shutdown of [28] As a consequence, the young company was forced to rename to JamesEdition.
Content policies[edit]
As of 2012, mashup sites such as and were overlaying Craigslist data with Google Maps and adding their own search filters to improve usability. In June 2012, Craigslist changed its terms of service to disallow the practice. In July 2012, Craigslist filed a lawsuit against [29] Following the shutdown of, some users complained that the service was useful to them and therefore should have remained intact. [30]
App[edit]
In December 2019, Craigslist introduced a platform for iOS and a beta version on Android. [31]
Site characteristics[edit]
Personals[edit]
Over the years Craigslist has become a very popular online destination for arranging for dates and sex. [32][33][34][35][36] The personals section allows for postings that are for “strictly platonic”, “dating/romance”, and “casual encounters”. [32][33][35][36]
The site is considered particularly useful by lesbians and gay men seeking to make connections, because of the service’s free and open nature and because of the difficulty of otherwise finding each other in more conservative areas. [37]
In 2005, San Francisco Craigslist’s men seeking men section was attributed to facilitating sexual encounters and was the second most common correlation to syphilis infections. [37] The company has been pressured by San Francisco Department of Public Health officials, prompting Jim Buckmaster to state that the site has a very small staff and that the public “must police themselves”. [37] The site has, however, added links to San Francisco City Clinic and STD forums. [37]
On March 22, 2018, Craigslist discontinued its “Personals” section in the United States in response to the passing of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which removes Section 230 safe harbours for interactive services knowingly involved in illegal sex trafficking. The service stated that
US Congress just passed HR 1865, ‘FOSTA’, seeking to subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully. Any tool or service can be misused. We can’t take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking craigslist personals offline. To the millions of spouses, partners, and couples who met through craigslist, we wish you every happiness! [38]
Adult services controversy[edit]
Craigslist website as it appeared on September 4, 2010, with black censored box in place of Adult Services
Advertisements for “adult” (previously “erotic”) services were initially given special treatment, then closed entirely on September 4, 2010, following a controversy over claims by state attorneys general that the advertisements promoted prostitution. [39][40]
In 2002, a disclaimer was put on the “men seeking men”, “casual encounters”, “erotic services”, and “rants and raves” boards to ensure that those who clicked on these sections were over the age of 18, but no disclaimer was put on the “men seeking women”, “women seeking men” or “women seeking women” boards. As a response to charges of discrimination and negative stereotyping, Buckmaster explained that the company’s policy is a response to user feedback requesting the warning on the more sexually explicit sections, including “men seeking men”. [41]
On May 13, 2009, Craigslist announced that it would close the erotic services section, replacing it with an adult services section to be reviewed by Craigslist employees. This decision came after allegations by several U. states that the erotic services ads were being used for prostitution. [42]
On September 4, 2010, Craigslist closed the adult services section of its website in the United States. The site initially replaced the adult services page link with the word “censored” in white-on-black text. The site received criticism and complaints from attorneys general that the section’s ads were facilitating prostitution and child sex trafficking. [43][44]
The adult services section link was still active in countries outside of the U. [45] Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said, “Craigslist isn’t legally culpable for these posts, but the public pressure has increased and Craigslist is a small company. ” Brian Carver, attorney and assistant professor at UC Berkeley, said that legal threats could have a chilling effect on online expression. “If you impose liability on Craigslist, YouTube and Facebook for anything their users do, then they’re not going to take chances. It would likely result in the takedown of what might otherwise be perfectly legitimate free expression. “[46]
On September 8, 2010, the “censored” label and its dead link to adult services were completely removed. [47][48]
Craigslist announced on September 15, 2010, that it had closed its adult services in the United States; however, it defended its right to carry such ads. Free speech and some sex crime victim advocates criticized the removal of the section, saying that it threatened free speech and that it diminished law enforcement’s ability to track criminals. However, the removal was applauded by many state attorneys general and some other groups fighting sex crimes. Craigslist said that there is some indication that those who posted ads in the adult services section are posting elsewhere. Sex ads had cost $10 initially and it was estimated they would have brought in $44 million in 2010 had they continued. [49][50] In the four months following the closure, monthly revenue from sex ads on six other sites (primarily Backpage) increased from $2. 1 to $3. 1 million, partly due to price increases. [51]
The company makes efforts to fight prostitution and sex trafficking, and in 2015, Craig Newmark received an award from the FBI for cooperation with law enforcement to fight human trafficking. [52][53][54][55][56]
On December 19, 2010, after pressure from Ottawa and several provinces, Craigslist closed ‘Erotic Services’ and ‘Adult Gigs’ from its Canadian website, even though prostitution was not itself illegal in Canada at the time. [57]
When the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act was signed into law on April 11, 2018, Craigslist chose to close its “Personals” section within all US domains to avoid civil lawsuits. [58] About their decision, Craigslist stated “Any tool or service can be misused. We can’t take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services. “[59][60]
Flagging[edit]
Craigslist has a user flagging system to quickly identify illegal and inappropriate postings. Users may flag postings they believe to be in violation of Craigslist guidelines.
Flagging does not require account login or registration, and can be done anonymously by anyone. [61] Postings are subject to automated removal when a certain number of users flag them. The number of flags required for a posting’s removal is dynamically variable and remains unknown to all but Craigslist staff. [61] Some users allege that flagging may also occur as acts of vandalism by groups of individuals at different ISPs, but no evidence of this has ever been shown. Flagging can also alert Craigslist staff to blocks of ads requiring manual oversight or removal. [61]
Flagging is also done by Craigslist itself (Craigslist’s automated systems) and the posts will never appear on the search results. [62]
Bartering[edit]
Craigslist includes a barter option in its “for sale” section. This growing trade economy has been documented on the television program Barter Kings and the blog one red paperclip. [63][64]
Criticism[edit]
In July 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle criticized Craigslist for allowing ads from dog breeders, stating that this could encourage the over-breeding and irresponsible selling of pit bulls in the Bay Area. [65] According to Craigslist’s terms of service, the sale of pets is prohibited, though re-homing with small adoption fees is acceptable. [66]
In January 2006, the San Francisco Bay Guardian published an editorial claiming that Craigslist could threaten the business of local alternative newspapers. [67]
L. Gordon Crovitz, writing for The Wall Street Journal, criticized the company for using lawsuits “to prevent anyone from doing to it what it did to newspapers”, contrary to the spirit of the website, which bills itself in a “noncommercial nature, public service mission, and noncorporate culture”. [68]
This article was a reaction to lawsuits from Craigslist which Crovitz says were intended to prevent competition. Craigslist filed a trademark lawsuit against the Swedish luxury marketplace website on July 11, 2012, [69] forcing the company to rename to JamesEdition.
In 2012, Craigslist sued PadMapper, a site that hoped to improve the user interface for browsing housing ads, and 3Taps, a company that helped PadMapper obtain data from Craigslist, in Craigslist v. 3Taps. This led users to criticize Craigslist for trying to shut down a service that was useful to them. [30]
Nonprofit foundation[edit]
In 2001, the company started the Craigslist Foundation, [70] a § 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers free and low-cost events and online resources to promote community building at all levels. It accepts charitable donations, and rather than directly funding organizations, it produces “face-to-face events and offers online resources to help grassroots organizations get off the ground and contribute real value to the community”.
Since 2004, the Craigslist Foundation has hosted eight annual conferences called Boot Camp, an in-person event that focuses on skills for connecting, motivating and inspiring greater community involvement and impact.
The Craigslist Foundation is also the fiscal sponsor for Our Good Works, the organization that manages, an application that distributes volunteer opportunities across the web and helps people get involved in their communities. [71]
As of summer 2013, the Craigslist Foundation’s functions are mostly moved to and the is no longer updated. has shut down. [72] Its website is gone, and its Facebook page has not been updated since 2017.
In popular culture[edit]
Films[edit]
24 Hours on Craigslist (2005), an American feature-length documentary that captures the people and stories behind a single day’s posts on Craigslist
Due Date shows one of the lead characters, Ethan (Zach Galifianakis), buying marijuana from a dealer through the site.
The Craigslist Killer (January 3, 2011), [73] a Lifetime made-for-TV movie featuring the story of Philip Markoff, who was accused of robbing and/or murdering several prostitutes he met through Craigslist’s adult services section.
Craigslist Joe (August 2012), a documentary featuring a 29-year-old man living for 31 days solely from donations of food, shelter, and transportation throughout the U. S., found via Craigslist[74]
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016), a comedy based on a real Craiglist ad placed by two brothers who wanted dates for their cousin’s wedding that went viral in February 2013, which they then turned into a book, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates: And a Thousand Cocktails. [75]
Television[edit]
The American comedy series Bored to Death revolves around a fictional Jonathan Ames (played by Jason Schwartzman) who posts an ad on Craigslist advertising himself as an unlicensed private detective.
The premise of the sitcom New Girl centers around a girl (Zooey Deschanel) who looks on Craigslist to find new roommates. She misunderstands one of the listings and ends up moving in with three men, when she had intended to find female roommates.
The American television mockumentary comedy sitcom Modern Family in the 10th episode of the third season “Express Christmas” mentions Craigslist when Phil Dunphy played by Ty Burrell buys a signed Joe Dimaggio card for his father-in-law Jay played by Ed ONeill. [76]
Theatre[edit]
In November 2007, Ryan J. Davis directed Jeffery Self’s solo show My Life on the Craigslist at off-Broadway’s New World Stages. [77] The show focuses on a young man’s sexual experiences on Craigslist and was so successful that it returned to New York by popular demand in February 2008. [78]
Video games[edit]
2008’s Grand Theft Auto IV features a parody of Craigslist called ‘Craplist’, which can be accessed by the player through the game’s in-game internet feature. The player can browse the site and view numerous satirical adverts.
Songs[edit]
In June 2009, “Weird Al” Yankovic released a song entitled “Craigslist”, which parodied the types of ads one might see on the site. The song was a style parody of The Doors and featured Doors member Ray Manzarek on the keyboards.
In 2006, composer Gabriel Kahane released an album of his satirical art songs for voice and piano, entitled “Craigslistlieder”, using excerpts from real Craigslist ads as text. [79]
Media[edit]
Craigslist received attention in the media in 2011 and 2014 when it was reported that convicted murderers had used the platform to lure their victims. [80][81]
The site has been described by Martin Sorrell as “socialistic anarchist”. [82]
See also[edit]
eBay
Facebook Marketplace
Mercari
OfferUp
References[edit]
^ “craigslist – Company Overview”. Hoover’s. Retrieved May 8, 2008.
^ Jay Leon. “Why Does a Person Need a Craigslist Account? “. Small Business – Chron. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
^ Roger Chapman. “Top 40 Website Programming Languages”. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
^ Craig Newmark (March 27, 2008). “Multiple language support on Craigslist”. cnewmark. Archived from the original on October 5, 2008. Retrieved September 13, 2008.
^ “about > factsheet”. Archived from the original on August 5, 2012. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
^ a b “about > expansion”. craigslist. August 21, 2009. Retrieved July 30, 2011.
^ a b “about > factsheet”. November 29, 2010. Retrieved July 30, 2011.
^ “On The Record: Craig Newmark”. San Francisco Chronicle. August 14, 2004. Retrieved November 15, 2011.
^ a b, Terynn Boulton -. “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Craig From Craigslist”. Gizmodo. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
^ “Archived page from Craigslist’s About Us”. April 19, 2000. Archived from the original on June 20, 2000. Retrieved February 8, 2007.
^ “Jim Buckmaster—CEO & programmer”. Archived from the original on June 30, 2007. Retrieved September 6, 2007.
^ “Craigslist Statistics”. Statistic Brain. September 14, 2016. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
^ Lenhart, Amanda; Shermak, Jeremy (November 2005). “Selling items online” (PDF). Pew Research Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 14, 2007. Retrieved September 6, 2007.
^ “craigslist fact sheet”. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009.
^ “Craigslist Tracker Overall Stats”. Archived from the original on March 16, 2012. Retrieved October 29, 2011.
^ Jones, Del (January 2, 2007). “Can small businesses help win the war? “. USA Today. Retrieved April 7, 2009.
^ Davis, Wendy (December 7, 2006). “Just An Online Minute… Stunning Wall Street, Shunning Profits”. MediaPost. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
^ Hau, Louis (December 11, 2006). “Newspaper Killer”. Forbes. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
^ a b Lashinsky, Adam (December 12, 2005). “Burning Sensation”. Fortune. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
^ “Zen and the Art of Classified Advertising: Craigslist could make $500 million a year. Why not? “. Carney, Brian M. (June 17, 2006). The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
^ a b Owen Thomas (July 26, 2007). “Craig Newmark, filthy rich on eBay’s millions”. Archived from the original on August 27, 2011. Retrieved July 30, 2011.
^ “craigblog”. Archived from the original on August 13, 2004.
^ Sandoval, Greg (July 3, 2007). “Craigslist grapples with competitor on board”. CNET. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
^ “EBay sues Craigslist ad website”. BBC. April 23, 2008. Retrieved May 8, 2008.
^ a b “EBay Divests Craigslist Stake, Ends Litigation”. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
^ “Craigslist strikes back at eBay”. May 13, 2008. Retrieved May 13, 2008.
^ Sherbert, Erin (July 12, 2012). “CraigsList sues JamesList, the “Craigslist for the rich””. San Francisco Weekly. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
^ Allemann, Andrew (July 20, 2012). Retrieved June 29, 2016.
^ Farivar, Cyrus (July 24, 2012). “Craigslist sues site that makes its apartment listings easier to find (Updated)”. Ars Technica.
^ a b Goldman, Eric. “Craigslist’s Anti-Consumer Lawsuit Threatens to Break Internet Law”. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
^ Vincent, James (December 5, 2019). “Craigslist, founded 24 years ago, is finally getting its first official app”. The Verge. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
^ a b Craigslist hookups,, 2009
^ a b College student to launch ‘sex hookup site: It’s safer than CraigList, and cheaper than bars Archived December 4, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, ABC News
^ Columbus Sex Survey Archived February 4, 2013, at, The Other Paper
^ a b Paul LaRosa and Maria Cramer, Seven Days of Rage: The Deadly Crime Spree of the Craigslist Killer, Simon and Schuster, 2009.
^ a b Risky Sex- and Drug-Seeking in a Probability Sample of Men-for-Men Online Bulletin Board Postings, by Christian Grov
^ a b c d The Hottest Spot Online – The explosively popular-and free-Craigslist attracts both gay men and lesbians by the thousands but the guys and gals aren’t generally looking for the same things, by Ann Rostow. The Advocate.
^ “Craigslist Just Nuked Its Personal Ads Section Because of a Sex-Trafficking Bill”. Motherboard. Vice. March 23, 2018. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
^ “Attorneys general call for Craigslist to get rid of adult services ads”. CNN. August 26, 2010.
^ Miller, Claire Cain (September 4, 2010). “Craigslist Blocks Access to ‘Adult Services’ Pages”. The New York Times. Retrieved September 4, 2010.
^ “Warning: men seeking men—Craigslist posts disclaimer for gay male personals”. Southern Voice. August 31, 2005. Archived from the original on July 2, 2007. Retrieved September 6, 2007.
^ Stone, Brad (May 13, 2009). “Craigslist to Remove Category for Erotic Services”. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
^ “Adult services censored on Craigslist”. September 5, 2010. Retrieved September 5, 2010.
^ Craigslist removes ads for adult services, James Temple, San Francisco Chronicle, September 4, 2010
^ “Adult services censored on Craigslist”. May 9, 2010. Retrieved May 9, 2010.
^ Miller, Claire (September 9, 2010). “Craigslist Pulls ‘Censored’ Label From Sex Ads Area”. Retrieved September 12, 2010.
^ Matyszczyk, Chris (September 8, 2010). “Craigslist removes ‘censored’ bar from site”. Retrieved September 12, 2010.
^ Miller, Claire Cain (September 15, 2010). “Craigslist Says It Has Shut Its Section for Sex Ads”. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
^ Lindenberger, Michael A. (September 16, 2010). “Craigslist Comes Clean: No More ‘Adult Services, ‘ Ever”. Time. Archived from the original on September 18, 2010. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
^ “Price increases drive growth in adult ad revenue”. AIM group. January 26, 2011.
^ “Craigslist founder Craig Newmark isn’t closing site’s ‘erotic’ section – NY Daily News”. New York Daily News. Associated Press. April 25, 2009.
^ “Charlotte: Search Results”.
^ Kim Palmer (April 4, 2013). “Ohio judge sentences convicted Craigslist killer to death”. Reuters.
^ dailyfinance staff (August 27, 2013). “Conmen Seeking Suckers: Beware of Stolen Merchandise on Craigslist”.
^ “Craig From Craigslist’s Second Act”. June 2017.
^ “Craigslist pulls ‘erotic services’ from Canadian site”. The Canadian Press. December 18, 2010.
^ Eichert, David. “‘It Ruined My Life: FOSTA, Male Escorts, and the Construction of Sexual Victimhood in American Politics” (PDF). Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law. 26 (3): 201–245.
^ “craigslist | about | FOSTA”.. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
^ a b c “Unofficial Flagging FAQ”. Craigslist users. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
^ “Craigslist | about | help | flags and community moderation”.
^ Chris Matyszczyk (July 20, 2010). “Teen Trades Old Cell Phone on Craigslist, Gets Porsche”. CNET.
^ Bergstein, Brian (April 16, 2006). “Man Uses a Paper Clip to Barter for House”. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
^ Lelchuk, Ilene (July 11, 2005). “Craigslist pressured to ban dog, cat ads”. Retrieved September 6, 2007.
^ “Prohibited Items”. About. Craigslist. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
^ Redmond, Tim (July 11, 2005). “Editor’s Notes”. San Francisco Bay Guardian. Retrieved September 6, 2007.
^ Crovitz, L. Gordon (May 12, 2013). “Toward Rivals, It’s Craigslitigious”. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
^ “Craigslist Foundation – GuideStar Profile”.. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
^ “”. Retrieved July 30, 2011.
^ “LikeMinded CommunitiesInc | San Francisco, CA | Cause IQ”.
^ “The Craigslist Killer Movie — Official Site”. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
^ “Man Lives Off Craigslist for One Crazy Month in Craigslist Joe”. Wired. July 3, 2012. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
^ Maggie Lange (July 7, 2016). “Getting Weird with the Real Mike and Dave Who Needed Wedding Dates”. GQ.
^ “Express Christmas”. Modern Family. Season 3. Episode 10. ABC.
^ Hetrick, Adam (October 17, 2007). “Jeffery Self to Offer My Life on the Craigslist at New World Stages Nov. 1”. Playbill. Archived from the original on February 22, 2008. Retrieved May 8, 2008.
^ “‘My Life on the Craigslist’ Returns Feb. 15, 22 & 29”. Broadway World. January 23, 2008. Retrieved May 8, 2008.
^ Midgette, Anne. “Gabriel Kahane, a genre bender musician”. The Washington Post. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
^ “‘Craigslist Killers’ Miranda and Elytte Barbour Sentenced to Life in Prison”. September 18, 2014. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
^ “Files tell more about ‘Craigslist killer'”. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
^ Terazono, Emiko (June 20, 2006). “Sorrell warns of e-communities ‘threat'”. Financial Times. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
Further reading[edit]
Gale Directory of Company Histories, “craigslist” (2007) online
External links[edit]
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Craigslist.
Official website
Company blog
Craigslist Foundation
“Why Craigslist Is Such a Mess”. August 24, 2009.
Newman, Lily Hay (January 30, 2015). “Police Stations Increasingly Offer Safe Haven for Craigslist Transactions”. Slate.
Why Craigslist Is Such a Mess | WIRED

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Why Craigslist Is Such a Mess | WIRED

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark. *Photo: PLATON * The Internet’s great promise is to make the world’s information universally accessible and useful. So how come when you arrive at the most popular dating site in the US you find a stream of anonymous come-ons intermixed with insults, ads for prostitutes, naked pictures, and obvious scams? In a design straight from the earliest days of the Web, miscellaneous posts compete for attention on page after page of blue links, undifferentiated by tags or ratings or even usernames. Millions of people apparently believe that love awaits here, but it is well hidden. Is this really the best we can do? Odd perhaps, but no odder than what you see at the most popular job-search site: another wasteland of hypertext links, one line after another, without recommendations or networking features or even protection against duplicate postings. Subject to a highly unpredictable filtering system that produces daily outrage among people whose help-wanted ads have been removed without explanation, this site not only beats its competitors—Monster, CareerBuilder, Yahoo’s HotJobs—but garners more traffic than all of them combined. Are our standards really so low? But if you really want to see a mess, go visit the nation’s greatest apartment-hunting site, the first likely choice of anybody searching for a rental or a roommate. On this site, contrary to every principle of usability and common sense, you can’t easily browse pictures of the apartments for rent. Customer support? Visit the help desk if you enjoy being insulted. How much market share does this housing site have? In many cities, a huge percentage. It isn’t worth trying to compare its traffic to competitors’, because at this scale there are no of these sites, of course, is merely one of the many sections of craigslist, which dominates the market in facilitating face-to-face transactions, whether people are connecting to buy and sell, give something away, rent an apartment, or have some sex. With more than 47 million unique users every month in the US alone—nearly a fifth of the nation’s adult population—it is the most important community site going and yet the most underdeveloped. Think of any Web feature that has become popular in the past 10 years: Chances are craigslist has considered it and rejected it. If you try to build a third-party application designed to make craigslist work better, the management will almost certainly throw up technical roadblocks to shut you aigslist is not only gigantic in scale and totally resistant to business cooperation, it is also mostly free. The only things that cost money to post on the site are job ads in some cities ($25 to $75), apartment listings by brokers in New York ($10), and—in a special case born of recent legal trouble—advertisements in categories commonly used by prostitutes, because authorities encourage vendors to maintain a record that would aid investigators. There is no banner advertising. They won’t let you join them, and at this price you can’t beat them times it has occurred to people that the problems with craigslist could be solved by appealing to its eponym, Craig Newmark. Newmark is under lots of pressure these days. His company is being sued by eBay, a competitor and minority shareholder angry at being excluded from the company’s deliberations. The attorney general of South Carolina has blustered about prosecuting his CEO for facilitating prostitution, and there have been strong challenges from law enforcement agencies in other states, too. The tabloids have relentlessly played up stories about two so-called craigslist killers, one who allegedly used the site’s erotic-services section to lure victims and another who used the help-wanted ads. Newmark responds to such criticism with extreme serenity. Inquire about his finances and he talks about his hummingbird feeder. When his Twitter page asks him, “What are you doing? ” he retweets in the voice of a squirrel. “Run, run, run, ” he says. “Dig, dig. “Though the company is privately held and does not respond to questions about its finances, it is evident that craigslist earns stupendous amounts of cash. One recent report, from a consulting firm that counted the paid ads, estimates that revenue could top $100 million in 2009. Should craigslist ever be sold, the price likely would run into the billions. Newmark, by these lights, is a very rich man. When anybody reminds him of this, the craigslist founder says there is nothing he would care to do with that much money, should it ever come into his hands. He already has a parking space, a hummingbird feeder, a small home with a view, and a shower with strong water pressure. What else is he supposed to want? Frustration over these sorts of replies sometimes becomes comical. In a July 2007 television interview, Charlie Rose spent half the program attempting to get Newmark to admit his good fortune, and failing. “I don’t have anywhere near as much control as you think, ” Newmark said. “I’m not talking how much control; I’m talking percentage of ownership, ” Rose said. Rose is usually kind to his guests, but the scent of unacknowledged wealth brought out his ferocity. “Oh, same thing from my point of view, ” Newmark said, trying to move the topic along. “Do you own more than 50 percent of craigslist or not? ” Rose asked. “No. “”You don’t? “”Correct. “”In other words, other people own that, or you’ve given it away or whatever. “”Could be, Charlie. “”OK, but I’m—why are you so…? “”Coy? “”Yeah. “”It doesn’t matter, ” Newmark said. “I mean… “”I know it doesn’t matter, ” Rose repeated, his face a mask of wmark’s claim of almost total disinterest in wealth dovetails with the way craigslist does business. Besides offering nearly all of its features for free, it scorns advertising, refuses investment, ignores design, and does not innovate. Ordinarily, a company that showed such complete disdain for the normal rules of business would be vulnerable to competition, but craigslist has no serious rivals. The glory of the site is its size and its price. But seen from another angle, craigslist is one of the strangest monopolies in history, where customers are locked in by fees set at zero and where the ambiance of neglect is not a way to extract more profit but the expression of a axioms of this worldview are easy to state. “People are good and trustworthy and generally just concerned with getting through the day, ” Newmark says. If most people are good and their needs are simple, all you have to do to serve them well is build a minimal infrastructure allowing them to get together and work things out for themselves. Any additional features are almost certainly superfluous and could even be wmark has been working hard to extend the influence of his worldview. His public pronouncements have the delighted yet apologetic tone of a man who has stumbled on a secret hiding in plain sight and who finds it embarrassingly necessary to point out something that should long have been obvious. He seems to have discovered a new way to run a business. He suspects that it may be the right way to run the spirited and mild-mannered, politically liberal and socially awkward, Newmark has one trait that mattered a lot in craigslist’s success: He is willing to perform the same task again and again. During the company’s first years, Newmark approved nearly every message on the list, and in the decade since he has spent much of his time eliminating offensive ones. Even by the most conservative accounting, he has passed judgment on tens of thousands of classified ads. Very few people could do this and wmark knows that he is not typical. He tends to interpret things literally, and when he was younger other people often confused him. In 1972, while still a college student, he read Language in Thought and Action, the classic book on communication by S. I. Hayakawa, and it helped him understand himself better. “All of a sudden I’m thinking, ‘It can’t be that everyone else has a problem. It has to be me, ‘” he are sitting in a San Francisco coffee shop called Reverie Café Bar, where Newmark spends long hours and has given countless interviews. Many things in his life are a matter of routine. When he talks, he calls upon a repertoire of conversational gambits he has been collecting forever, and he has a selection of sound effects on his mobile phone, such as a cymbal crash, that he can trigger to make it clear he is joking. When people misunderstand him, he doesn’t get upset. “I’m the Forrest Gump of the Internet, ” he says. He loves customer service. “I’ll only be doing this as long as I live, ” he says. He taps his phone, triggering a ghostly whaaahahaha. “And after that, who knows? “Email has always been an ideal outlet for Newmark’s genial nature. Craigslist began in 1995 as a mailing list with announcements of events of interest to technical people, and as more of them began to subscribe, he encouraged readers to post their own news, archived the messages on a Web page, and tried to make sure all the content was legitimate. After Netscape’s IPO in August of that year, craigslist became a portal into the dotcom scene. Within two years, he had thousands of readers, most of whom he didn’t know. This was a big responsibility for somebody who is not an extrovert. “I used to email him every day, ” says Christina Murphy, one of the first tech recruiters to use craigslist regularly. “If I made a mistake in a job posting, I would have to call him and ask for a change. It drove him insane. ” Murphy, along with an Internet consultant named Nancy Melone, began meeting with Newmark, trying to map out a more professional future for craigslist that didn’t require its founder to take phone calls. Job postings were an obvious source of revenue, and in 1998 they launched a nonprofit called List Foundation. Recruiters would pay $30 for ads, everything else would be free, and any money left after paying the cost of upkeep and administration would be given away. Melone was CEO. Newmark’s willingness to cede so much control worried Murphy, who soon quit the venture. “It was a beautiful, perfect little world, ” she says. “And it was being taken over by other forces. “For nearly a year, the site was available at two URLs, and the less embarrassingly personal But Melone and Newmark were pulling in different directions, or rather, Melone was pulling and Newmark was digging in his heels. By the end of the decade, the Internet frenzy was at its peak and the smartest minds of the new industry all agreed that the right strategy was to get big fast in anticipation of a sale or an IPO. Melone wanted to raise prices. Newmark worried about charging for listings at all. Melone wanted to become a dotcom; Newmark was wedded to the idea that craigslist was a community service. Melone was gregarious, a talker. Newmark had vast powers of passive resistance. A split was inevitable, and one day in late September 1999, craigslist users who came in through the address found themselves automatically bounced to a new, for-profit Web site, called MetroVox. Run by Melone, it offered similar sorts of community listings and had a far more aggressive plan to grow. Melone said that Newmark had authorized the switch; Newmark announced that he’d been was craigslist’s first serious competitive challenge, and perhaps its last. Newmark had some personal qualities that ought to have been fatal in an entrepreneur. Aside from his communication problems and an aversion to exerting authority, he cared nothing for entrepreneurship. But in the battle with MetroVox he had an asset that more than compensated for these shortcomings: For years he had worked on his site with an uncanny, machine-like constancy, doing all the painstaking and repetitive things that would make most people desperate with frustration and boredom, and he had done them happily. And now his users paid him back in the most obvious possible way: They stopped using the List Foundation address, resumed posting their free ads at, and emailed Newmark when problems occurred. Less than a year later, the bubble burst and MetroVox faded wmark abandoned the idea of running craigslist as a nonprofit, which would have required him to learn and follow too many rules. He realized that nobody could stop him from giving away his money if he made too much of it, and in the meantime he handed out a significant portion of his ownership to others as a way to avoid acquiring too much authority. “I was worried about going middle-aged crazy, ” he says. He also put great distance between himself and any executive responsibility. The current CEO, Jim Buckmaster, joined the site in 2000 as a programmer and handles every business and strategic issue. It was Buckmaster who crafted the current strategy for growth—a slow, bloblike, seemingly unstoppable accretion of new craigslist cities, each an exact clone of the others, launched with no marketing or publicity. Sometimes a new site grows very slowly for a long time. But eventually listings hit a certain volume, after which the site becomes so familiar and essential that it is more or less taken for granted by everybody except the distressed publishers of local newspapers. Revenue from newspaper classified ads is off nearly 50 percent in the past decade, a drop that comes to almost $10 billion. Only a fraction of this loss is because of Newmark’s company, but as the largest online classified site, craigslist is easy to cause he is the founder of a remarkable Internet company that also happens to be helping the nation’s dailies go out of business, Newmark’s opinion is eagerly sought, and he spends an increasing amount of time at conferences and international meetings, where he attempts to answer questions about how to best defend the public interest in an era of cheap and ubiquitous media. As we watch the birds on the patio of Reverie, Newmark tries out some of the phrases he is hoping to use in the coming months as he unfolds the lessons of craigslist. “My big mission is to help make grassroots democracy as much a part of our government as representative democracy, ” he says. Jim Buckmaster was hired as a programmer in 2000. A year later he became, grooming by Tamara Brown/Artist Untied Many people who have heard Newmark’s public remarks find the ideals admirable but difficult to apply. What would such an approach mean in practice? His cause is not helped by the fact that if the craigslist management style resembles any political system, it is not democracy but rather a low-key popular dictatorship. Its inner workings are obscure, it publishes no account of its income or expenses, it has no obligation to respond to criticism, and all authority rests in the hands of a single man. Ask Newmark about any feature you would like to see on craigslist and you will always get the same response. “Ask Jim, ” he says. “How do you get your feedback? Have you ever done a poll or anything like that? “”The thought makes me tired. But you can suggest that to Jim if you wish. “”What if Jim says no? “”If you want to ask him again, you can, ” he this point in our conversation I begin to feel the spirit of Charlie Rose upon me. After all, Newmark is the founder, a major shareholder, and the public face of the company. “What would it take to get you to fire Jim? ” I wmark matches me mischief for mischief. “Ask Jim. “It is easy to find hypocrisy in the idealism of a business owner who prescribes democracy for others while relieving himself of the tiresome burden of democratic consultation in the domain where he has the most power. But of course, craigslist is not a polity; it is just an online classified advertising site, one that manages to serve some basic human needs with startling efficiency. It is difficult to overstate the scale of this accomplishment. Craigslist gets more traffic than either eBay or Amazon eBay has more than 16, 000 employees. Amazon has more than 20, 000. Craigslist has 30. Craigslist may have little to teach us about how to make decisions, but that’s not the aspect of democracy that concerns Newmark most. He cares about the details, about executing all the little obvious things we’d like government to do. “I’m not interested in politics, I’m interested in governance, ” he says. “Customer service is public service. “Last year Newmark got about 195, 000 email messages. He estimates that roughly 60 percent were spam. He read all the rest and replied to many. He has a boss now, a customer service manager named Clint Powell, who was hired about six years ago. But he maintains his habits for reasons that have little to do with the normal logic of work. They are part of his identity, an unconventional mode of self-realization through which he took hold of a barrier that always separated him from the world and made it into a kind of performance. Athletes compete. Artists create. Newmark answers email. He knows that this will seem absurd from the outside, but he is blessed not to care. In fact, he likes to treat people to a laugh when he can. It’s sometimes impossible to discern his intention exactly, and this is essential to the effect. On our way out of the cafè, I step aside to let Newmark go ahead, and he walks face-first into the plate glass Buckmaster is tall and thin, Newmark is short and round, and when they stand together they look like a binary number. In 2004, I saw them give a talk in which Newmark, who is 5’7″, stood on a milk crate and was still barely eye-to-eye with his CEO, who is 6’7”. It was a memorable performance, but they don’t have much opportunity for the gag these days because their joint appearances are rare. At the craigslist office, the two men work in the same room, but their desks are set up so they sit back-to-back. They are not social friends, and in fact they almost never talk. Newmark does not excel at chitchat, and Buckmaster is a quiet type, too. Buckmaster dropped out of medical school at the University of Michigan in 1986. He hung around the university for 10 years, studying the classics, doing data entry work, and teaching himself programming. By 1999, he was working as a webmaster in San Francisco for a dotcom called Creditland, where he was not happy. “The marketing side had attained ascendancy, ” he says. He posted his résumé on craigslist, and Newmark found aigslist was very unlike Creditland. “It wasn’t even really clear who decided to hire me, ” Buckmaster says. He looked around and began finding things to do. He wrote forum software to give users a chance to interact. When he realized that every post had to be reviewed and published by hand, he created the automated process that allowed craigslist to grow. He coded a search engine. A year after he arrived he was CEO. There was no competition for the job, no ritual transfer of power, and no instructions. “In the entire time I’ve been here, I don’t think Craig has ever said to me, ‘This is the way it has to be, ‘” Buckmaster says. The only topic he can remember their disagreeing about is the peace sign that adorns the craigslist Web address. “Craig thought it was associated with the hippies and that hippies were discredited, ” Buckmaster says. “Whereas I think peace is among the most desirable things you can have. “The long-running tech-industry war between engineers and marketers has been ended at craigslist by the simple expedient of having no marketers. Only programmers, customer service reps, and accounting staff work at craigslist. There is no business development, no human resources, no sales. As a result, there are no meetings. The staff communicates by email and IM. This is a nice environment for employees of a certain temperament. “Not that we’re a Shangri-La or anything, ” Buckmaster says, “but no technical people have ever left the company of their own accord. “The purity of this culture is its most tenaciously guarded asset. A few years ago, Phillip Knowlton, a Bay Area psychologist who was on the craigslist staff in the site’s early years, sold his 28 percent stake in the company to eBay. Buckmaster and Newmark approved eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, himself a programmer, as the representative of eBay on the craigslist board. But at that point, Omidyar no longer ran eBay, and he was replaced by an eBay vice president who had overseen the acquisition of a craigslist competitor in Europe. When eBay launched a competing service in the US, Buckmaster responded by reorganizing craigslist and weakening eBay’s influence. The companies have since sued each other. While the dueling complaints hinge on questions of stock dilution and conflict of interest, it is hard to imagine any conventional business executive being satisfied with the way craigslist operates. What kind of company declares itself uninterested in maximizing profit? “Companies looking to maximize revenue need to throw as many revenue-generating opportunities at users as they will tolerate, ” Buckmaster says. “We have absolutely no interest in doing that, which I think has been instrumental to the success of craigslist. “Buckmaster and I talk in the San Francisco penthouse condo of Susan MacTavish Best, who owns a small PR company. Best and Buckmaster lived together as a couple for five years. Though they are now separated, they remain friends, and she continues to serve as a kind of translation mechanism by which the hints and silences of craigslist management are converted into responses suitable for the press. Queries, in recent months, have concerned mostly sex and violence. That the world would expect craigslist to take responsibility for the rare violent criminal who lures victims through an ad strikes Buckmaster as absurd. He points to the thousands of people who die every year in auto accidents. “Does anybody call up the head of GM and say, ‘Somebody just got killed using your product? How can you sleep at night? Don’t you realize that a person is dead? ‘”Buckmaster’s dispassionate protest reflects his cast of mind. Emotional appeals are more likely to provoke his skepticism than his sympathy, and when the complaints come from aspiring Internet entrepreneurs he is especially prone to sarcasm. He hears many such complaints, because one of the most curious things about craigslist is that a company designed and run entirely by programmers is so hostile to outsiders who want to pull neat technical tricks to improve the site. A few years ago, independent programmer Jeff Atwood created a service that would allow people to search multiple cities at once or even search craigslist globally. Buckmaster arranged some technical interference to kill it off. Another programmer named Ryan Sit created a service called Listpic, which scraped images from craigslist and dumped them into an interface for browsing: You could scan through all the photos from the apartment listings or see pictures of all the dogs up for adoption. Buckmaster banished Listpic, had specific objections to both. Listpic ran ads, it put a high burden on craigslist servers, and when he looked at traffic records he noticed that Listpic was being used mainly to enhance enjoyment of the sexy images people posted in their erotic-services ads. Universal search subverts craigslist’s mission to enable local, face-to-face transactions; it increases the risk of scams and can be exploited to snatch up bargains, giving technically sophisticated users an advantage over casual browsers. But the very surfeit of these practical objections—many of which probably have technical solutions—hints that the real explanation lies elsewhere, and with a minimum of pressure Buckmaster will state it plainly. It is the same reason that craigslist has never done any of the things that would win approval among Web entrepreneurs, the same reason he has never updated its 1999-era Web design. The reason is that craigslist’s users are not asking for such changes. “I hear this all the time, ” Buckmaster says. “You guys are so primitive, you are like cavemen. Don’t you have any sense of aesthetic? But the people I hear it from are invariably working for firms that want the job of redoing the site. In all the complaints and requests we get from users, this is never one of them. Time spent on the site, the number of people who post—we’re the leader. It could be we’re doing one or two things right. “This ends the debate for him, but his tone is oddly non-triumphal; in fact, Buckmaster’s statement of fealty to users has a weary sound that I don’t understand until weeks later. Only after I have spent every spare hour on craigslist—browsing the ads, tracking the spam, reading the help forums, contacting users—do I finally begin to grasp something of his situation. The truth is that a lot of people complain about craigslist. Buckmaster is correct that few of them complain about the design. They complain about spam, they complain about fraud, they complain about the posting rules, they complain about the search, they complain about uploading images. They complain about every way a classified transaction can go wrong. They seldom complain about amazing new features they imagine they might possibly want to use, because they are too busy complaining about the simple features they depend on that don’t work as well as they’d like. By eliminating marketing, sales, and business development, craigslist’s programmers have cut out all the cushioning layers that separate them from the users they serve, and any right they have to teach lessons in public service comes from the odd situation of running a company that is directly subservient only to the public. Here’s the lesson: The public is a Newmark says that craigslist works because people are good, and he has stuck to this point of view without wavering. Whether you accept it as true will depend on your standard of metimes entire categories of craigslist are rendered nearly unusable by spam. Con artists prowl the listings, paying sellers with fake cashier’s checks and luring buyers to share their credit card numbers. Other evils are more subtle. Business owners whose judgment is distorted by self-interest fail to understand the rules and put the same item in multiple categories or repost it many times a day to insure it stays prominent, crowding out other sellers. A woman listing a car forgets to tell buyers about problems with the title until they’ve made a long trip out to see it. In all transactions there is a possibility of misunderstanding as well as abuse, and at 99. 99 percent perfection there would still be thousands of angry people every month. Newmark says that craigslist works because people are good. The battle flows back and forth. Captchas—distorted words that can be interpreted by humans more easily than by machines—tamed spam on craigslist for a while. Then it came back full force, not because the spammers had solved the difficult problem in artificial intelligence but because they had hacked an easier problem in global economics. I recently established a friendly email dialog with a young man in Dhaka, Bangladesh, who works on a 13-person team that creates craigslist spam. He fills in Captchas, creates new accounts with masked IP addresses, and posts ads all day long using text from a database provided by his employer, an anonymous spam king. The going price for a spam post on craigslist is about 50 cents, with large discounts for volume. When I told Buckmaster about my new friend, he took the news calmly. “These are technically sophisticated people who take pride in their work, and when we knock them down they don’t just decide to go find something else to do. You could say we are breeding the perfect spammer. “Without a computer science research department to work on evil-fighting algorithms, or a call center to take complaints, Buckmaster has settled on a different approach, one that involves haiku. The little poems he has written appear on the screen at times when users might expect a helpful message from the staff. They function as a gnomic clue that what you are seeing is intentional, while discouraging further conversation or inquiry. For instance, start too many conversations in the forums and your new threads may fail to show up. Instead, you will see this:frogs croak and gulls crysilently a river floodsa red leaf floats byAttempt to post a message that is similar to one you’ve already entered, and this may appear:a wafer thin mintthat’s been sent before it seemsone is enough, thanksThe slight delays in cognitive processing that these haiku cause are valuable. They open a space for reflection, during which you can rethink your need for service. But haiku can’t solve everything. Supporting the poems are tens of thousands of users who are willing to devote two or three seconds of time to flag inappropriate ads or forum posts. Too many flags on an advertisement and it will vanish. The staff can lower the number of flags required to vaporize an ad if they want to clean out an especially polluted category, and they can raise the threshold if people grow flag-happy. Users whose listings are flagged off the site get no hint as to what they may have done to attract ire. Instead, they are directed to the “flag help” forum, where pseudonymous volunteers will offer an educated guess while having some fun at their expense. Last spring a baffled user posted a query about why her ferrets-for-sale ad disappeared. Within 60 seconds there was this reply: “Train the ferrets to read the terms of use. Maybe they can help you out next time. Pet sales are prohibited on this site. “An ad can be flagged off the site for any reason. Reject too many people for a job opening and they may flag your ad in spite every time they see it—and every new ad you post, too. Describe yourself as incredibly handsome and cynical date-seekers may flag you as a favor to the innocent. The claim that craigslist, used by millions of strangers, is somehow a democracy begins to be believable exactly here, in the crotchets, irritations, prejudices, and minor forms of harassment that characterize life in a small town where any proposal you make is subject to the judgment of something as inappropriate in the discussion forums, where craigslist employees have the final word about what goes, and these lines for flagging thisstaff will look at it shortlyhey, a dragonfly! Buckmaster’s sly haiku evokes an entire scene. Somewhere, at this moment, an innocent party is staring at a computer screen, furious at an offensive remark. Somebody else is fruitlessly trading insults with volunteers on the help desk. A third person is checking the site again and again, looking for a listing that was submitted but never appeared. All craigslist can offer at these moments is a shrug and a joke, in the style of a Dilbert is old-fashioned. But craigslist is old-fashioned in any number of ways. It relies on email and the telephone in an era of SMS and social networks. It sticks to traceless transactions in an industry that makes its living collecting data from every touch. And just as people who run technical companies are reaching an apex of confidence in their ability to invent new forms of community based on sharing everything, craigslist still treats social life as dangerously complex, deserving the most jaded caution. Corporate isolation, user anonymity, refusal of excessive profit, glacial adoption of new features: These all signal Newmark and Buckmaster’s wariness about what humans, including themselves, might do if given the chance. There may be a peace sign on every page, but the implicit political philosophy of craigslist has a deeply conservative, even a tragic cast. Every day the choristers of the social web chirp their advice about openness and trust; craigslist follows none of it, and every day it ntributing editor Gary Wolf () wrote about tracking personal data in issue 17. 07Extreme Makeover: Craigslist Edition Wired Asked Leading Designers to Give Craigslist a User-Interface Lift How Would You Redesign Craigslist? Suggest Your Own Makeover and Vote on Reader Contributions Mr. Craigslist, Master of the NerdiverseSued by Craigslist, South Carolina’s Top Cop Declares Victory and Goes HomeDon’t Hesitate to Haggle on CraigslistShopping For Super Cars … on CraigslistAlt Text: The Craigslist Free-Couch Blues
How Craigslist's Founder Realized He Sucked as a Manager

How Craigslist’s Founder Realized He Sucked as a Manager

Sometimes, amazing businesses are built by a driven founder long obsessed with a single idea. Then there’s Craigslist. The ragtag online classified-ad operation happened by accident, threw every tenet of design out the window, and has always been run by individuals apparently allergic to virtually every dearly held belief of business and management. It nonetheless became one of the lasting icons of the early Web and is, by all reckonings, insanely profitable. Though its tightlipped founder, Craig Newmark, won’t talk about that, in his Inc. interview he still has lots to say about Craigslist’s rise, the power of listening, how he’s using his newfound influence, and why he’s such a terrible What was high school Craig like? Newmark: I was a full-on nerd, and that was a lonely thing. I didn’t realize that wearing thick black glasses taped together and a pocket protector was not definition of nerd has to do with a lack of social instinct for people, a lack of learned and ingrained social skills. I was reasonably socialized sometime into grammar school, but around the fifth or sixth grade, my social skills didn’t develop. I didn’t gain the normal instincts people have for how you relate to others. I have since learned social skills and I can simulate them for short periods, but I do feel somewhat nerds are kind of cool now. New-school nerds are cool. There’s nothing cool about college, you spent almost 20 years at IBM and Charles Schwab. What did those giant, traditional organizations teach you? I learned that my social skills–or lack thereof–really held me back professionally. And when you have big organizations, people form factions or silos, which sometimes operate at cross-purposes–and there are people who want to do a good job, and some people who just want to advance that affect how you set up Craigslist? I realized the dividing line between small and big, when it comes to organizations, seems to be the Dunbar number [the maximum number of social relationships any person can manage cognitively] of 150. When I was CEO–which was only for a year–I tried to, let’s say, shape our DNA such that we would never grow big. [Craigslist currently employs “40-some” staffers, according to the company. ]When did you first glimpse what the internet could be? In college, we were on the arpanet. I sensed it would be big, but I wasn’t passionate about it graduated from Case Western in 1975–in the early days of arpanet, when it was basically used by scientists. It had immense potential, but I was too focused on class work. I should have focused on what I could do with the tools that were right there. I could’ve reached out to people with similar, in ’84, I read Neuromancer, by William Gibson. That vision of what cyberspace could be, and the way regular people–having no power or influence–could work together to accumulate power from the grass roots up kicked off the imaginations of many people. I started seeing that vision again in the early ’90s. I’d started spending time on the WELL, a small but highly influential virtual community. I left IBM and went to Schwab in 1993, and it had a brown-bag-luncheon series where I went around the company saying, “Here’s the internet. It’s going to be how we do business someday. “Craigslist is now in 700 cities in 70-some countries, and remains one of the most-trafficked sites in the U. S. But it began with a single email in 1995–you simply shared interesting things going on in San Francisco. What was in that first email? The first ones had to do with two events: Joe’s Digital Diner, where people would show the use of multimedia technology. It was just emerging then. Around a dozen of us would come and have dinner–always spaghetti and meatballs–around a big table. And a party called the Anon Salon, which was very theatrical but also technology many people did that first email go to? Ten to then? People just kept emailing me asking for their addresses to be added to the cc list, or eventually to the listserv. As tasks started getting onerous, I would usually write some code to automate I just kept listening. At first, the email was just arts and technology events. Then people asked if I could pass on a post about a job or something for sale. I could sense an apartment shortage growing, so I asked people to send apartment notices, did you realize Craigslist was becoming a thing? By the end of 1997. It was still just me, and at the end of that year I hit about a million page views per month, which was big then. Microsoft Sidewalk [an ill-fated network of online city guides] wanted to run banner ads. But a theme coalescing in my head was: People were already paying too much for less-effective ads, so we could provide a simple platform where the ads would be more effective and yet people would pay less. That made sense at the time and has worked out pretty well. I was getting increasingly serious about the site and had gotten some volunteer help, but at the end of 1998, some people who had been using the site for years told me at lunch, “Hey, volunteering isn’t working. You gotta get real. You gotta make the site into something reliable. “Had you thought that too? I had been in denial. I could see things starting to not work. Postings didn’t get done in a timely way; the database didn’t get pruned of old listings in a consistent way. Trying to run a business collecting fees for job postings–I couldn’t make it work on a volunteer basis. Maybe someone with better leadership skills could have, but I couldn’t. So I had to get real and go full time. I had to commit. I left what I was doing–programming for a company called Continuity Solutions, which was doing some interesting technology for customer service–and I made Craigslist into a company in early ‘ interesting time to be starting a company in San Francisco. I was talking to a lot of bankers and VCs, socially. They were beginning to fantasize about the way the internet could happen. They were telling me to do the normal Silicon Valley thing: monetize everything. They were saying that this could be a billion-dollar company. But I had already made the decision to not highly monetize when I turned down the banner year, people helped me understand that, as a manager, I kind of I had trouble making tough decisions. I was not any good at the job interview process, and I made mistakes. I found it very difficult to fire anyone. I didn’t make major decisions that required some boldness, like adding new cities. I knew we needed to expand in that way, but I guess I didn’t have the guts to do it. I thought, for example, that maybe we needed to do some advertising. In an HR magazine, for job postings. So I hired someone to do marketing, and put up a couple of ads, and that was just a wasted effort. Word of mouth is what really worked. I made one really good hiring decision, which was choosing our current CEO, Jim Buckmaster. I saw his résumé at the end of ’99 and hired him around then, as a lead tech guy. I realized that he could run things better than I move with Jim is something that a lot of founders really struggle with. I was able, to some extent, to divorce my ego from my CEO role. And I’d had a lot of lessons. I’d seen micromanagement be a big problem in the tech industry. I just saw lots of situations where people screwed up by interfering with people who could do the a shocking degree, Craigslist looks the same today as it did in the ’90s. You’re not deeply involved in the company anymore, but still: Why? I didn’t know how to do riously? With all your programming skills? I didn’t know how to design fancy. The evolution of Craigslist was based on listening to people as to what they wanted and what was needed. People consistently told us they didn’t want fancy stuff; they wanted something simple, straightforward, and fast. We listened to consensus rather than what someone was trying to talk us metimes the angriest voices are the loudest. Or sometimes you may hear, from 10 people who love fancy stuff, that we should do this fancy thing, and then you hear from a million other people saying keep it you turned over operations to Jim in 2000 and–famously–stuck with customer service. You’ve stepped back more in recent years, yes? In the past two years, I’ve delegated more leadership to the customer service team. I realized that I was not helping. I was inhibiting. I do minimal stuff to stay in touch, because detachment from your thing is wrong and damaging. I regard my life over the past 20 years or so as completely surreal. I didn’t expect that my hobby would turn into a successful business, and also a very successful way for people to help one another. And I never expected that would lead me to do a lot of other civic engagement and ‘ll get back to that in a moment. But let’s talk about what you took away from the eBay situation–it bought a 28. 4 percent stake in Craigslist in 2004, you sued each other in 2008, and Craigslist finally settled and bought eBay out in it taught me is that partners of any sort need to be started Craigconnects, your umbrella for your philanthropic work, in 2011. Can you articulate your vision for giving, and how it meshes with your vision of the grass roots and the Web? It’s all a collection of the ad you tell well by doing good is a business model, and Craigslist is about having a business that helps people help one another out. Craigconnects is my civic engagement thing where, in a number of areas I believe in, people help people. One is veterans and military families. I’ve gotten behind voting rights groups in a purely nonpartisan way–people need to be voting. You have to have good information to vote, and I support the Trust Project, which is working to develop indicators of trustworthiness that can be done as HTML tags in articles. One could be a link to an ethics code; one could be a link to an accountability process. There could be tags to whether or not this is original reporting, maybe, to distinguish opinion versus factual pieces. So any news aggregator would look for these tags, and if the reporter or the news organization has committed to them, then that article would be ranked more highly than articles from outlets that haven’t made this commitment. I’m also going pretty big with Wikipedia. While it has issues, it has become a major source of breaking news. Like anywhere, something may go wrong, but in Wikipedia it gets corrected. [Newmark gave $1 million to the Wikimedia Endowment in June. ]I don’t have a sweeping vision. I just find cases that either have potential or are already working. Kiva [the microlender] and DonorsChoose are good examples of that. And I’m working with the Global Fund for Women. We’re talking about a campaign to help invent a new normal, when it comes to guys funding women’s charitable I’m good at is telling people, “Hey, here’s good stuff going on. ” I don’t think I’m going to be a big leader. The world is not right for one guy on a horse. It needs many great people across the world who will lead and accumulate power that will be mediated over the internet. I don’t think I’ll be one of them. I don’t have the energy, or the hair, and certainly not the charisma. But if I smooth the way, that’s pretty ‘ve spoken in interviews about being interested in charities that work, not just those that tell a good story. What are the characteristics of the doers? Many are marginally articulate. I’ve found a lot of cases where people were doing good work but just didn’t know how to articulate it very well–like Blue Star Families and Consumer Reports. (I’m on CR’s board. ) But much more distressing is the inverse. Once I thought that any charity that got 501(c)(3) approval would be doing good things. I now know that some are ineffective, and some are actively mentioned Kiva. But some studies of the microlending model suggest that it doesn’t do that great a job in lifting people out of poverty. From what my team and I have observed, such businesses are imperfect, but the world is better with them. If I contribute a thousand bucks and 800 is used effectively–well, that goes pretty far in parts of the developing world. Everything about finance and business is flawed. You do what you can to make things less bad, and then you do more to make things less were 42 when you started Craigslist. What might you have done differently, had you started earlier? I couldn’t have started earlier, because the timing is what mattered. I was very lucky. I got laid off from Charles Schwab in 1995. I’d been exposed to what the internet and the Web could be, and then Schwab dumped me into the geography that was the pointy end of the spear with a respectable metimes businesses think, “If we build it, they will come. ” They won’t. But when I built Craigslist, I was building something that people really wanted and there wasn’t much else going on. I didn’t understand the value of media and communications, identity, and branding. I wish I had known about them 30 years ago, but those things are never taught in computer science it was only timing. Got it. And maybe I was ready to start learning social the September 2016 issue of Inc. magazine

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