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Simple Classified Ads and Web Presence Still Put People before Profits, Craigslist.org

Simple Classified Ads and Web Presence Still Put People before Profits, Craigslist.org

 

Most of the biggest sites on the Internet, especially which began prior to the “Dot Com Boom follow a similar pattern.

In most cases, we see a Masters Degree holder with a Good Idea. With his understanding of the growing Internet Market Place, he is able to reach an incredibly huge customer base, and the profits roll in. Think of the many spots on the Forbes list held by Internet Millionaires. Consider the wealth associated with Google, Yahoo!, eBay, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, or PayPal.

But sometimes it isn't about the money.

Craig Newmark came from Morristown, NJ, and earned his BS and MS from Case Western Reserve University in 1975 and 77. When he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area while working for Schwab in the 90's he felt the isolation that anyone feels when they come to a new place. One of the ways he found to deal with the isolation was to create an email distribution list for his friends in early 1995. The list included local Bay Area events, and was based on the communal attitudes found on USENET, WELL, and MindVox. Newmark noticed that many of the listings showing up on his list were events that held interest to the computer programming and Internet hobbyists and professionals in the Bay Area. By June of 95 the List had grown the point that a software upgrade was needed, and Majordomo was installed.

Even though the only advertising was word of mouth, listings and subscriptions grew rapidly. Newmark gave the list very little moderation, and was surprised when a number of non-event listings began to appear. One early trend was listings of jobs for Computer professionals. Actually it shouldn't have been a big surprise; the people using a service like Newmark's list in the mid-90s would have the computer skills employers were looking for. Users began to ask for a Web interface, and the domain CraigsList.org was registered and went live in 1996.

For a long time Newmark considered himself a professional software engineer and CraigsList an interesting hobby, but by 1999 he realized that the site had become popular and profitable enough to allow him to leave his engineering behind and devote himself full time to CraigsList. The site incorporated as a non-profit and began to hire employees. In 2000 new lead programmer and eventual CEO Jim Buckmaster came on board. 2000 also saw CraigsList’s expansion into other cities, eventually internationally.

In 2006 Buckmaster explained that CraigsList wasn’t interested in maximizing profits, instead it would stick to its mission of helping users find jobs, cars, and apartments. In 2004 Internet giant eBay had purchased a 25% share in CraigsList, and in 2008 sued, claiming the company  "unfairly diluted eBay's economic interest by more than 10%." CraigsList counter-sued "to remedy the substantial and ongoing harm to fair competition".

CraigsList.org maintains a rather simple appearing page on the ‘net. It has resisted Banner Ads. Although the site’s openess has lead to controversy involving the sex trade and internet stalkers, CraigsList remains strong, according to Newmark, largely because it gives people a voice, a sense of community trust and even intimacy.

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