If you live in a major American city and you’ve needed to search for an apartment, job, or mate in the past two or three years, you’re probably familiar with Craig’s List. The Craig’s List Web site at www.craigslist.org is now one of the Internet’s most popular gathering sites, used across the world for everything from finding homes and jobs to bartering merchandise, meeting new activity partners, discussing politics, or even hunting down that cute girl or guy you saw on the street but didn’t have the guts to talk to. These functions, are all free for users, now attract more than 4 million users per month to the Craig’s List site, with more than 650 million pages viewed per month.
As with many Internet phenomena, Craig’s List began simply and purely, and evolved in a grassroots fashion. The list’s founder, Craig Newmark, worked for 17 years as a systems engineer for IBM, and left to join Charles Schwab in 1994. The company moved him to San Francisco, and early the following year he began sending out a regular e-mail telling people about events in the area. By the middle of the year the list became so popular he had to move it to a listserv (an automatic mailing list server) and give it a name. Craig’s List was born.
Craig Newmark left Charles Schwab in 1995 to become a freelance consultant, but continued to build his list. It shifted to the Web later that year and continued to grow, and by 1999, his consulting days were over. Craig’s List was his full-time concern. The list began serving other cities by 2000, and since then the growth has been exponential. Craig’s List now serves over 32 cities, and is one of the more frequently visited sites on the Internet. But while Craig’s List has become a rare Internet success story in the age of Internet disappointments, he has intentionally avoided the extreme financial success that many experienced during the boom.
On the site, people buy and sell motorcycles, futons and mobile phones. They find apartments, blind dates, childcare, shared rides across the country, and jobs. The site takes in more than 9,000 new listings per day, nearly all of which are free.
While Craig Newmark describes craigslist as a “mom and pop” business unconcerned about making much money, it challenges the foundation of existing businesses such as newspapers, roommate services and apartment-listing services-turning services for which people used to pay money into free ones.
Technology forecaster Paul Saffo said he believes that people who work outside the mainstream such as Newmark tend to come up with the most influential ideas.
Read Newmark’s full Pubcon speaker biography here.