Craigslist is a central
network of online communities, featuring free classified advertisements
(with jobs, internships, housing, personals, erotic services, for
sale/barter/wanted, services, community, gigs, resume, and pets
categories) and forums on various topics.
The service was founded in 1995 by Craig Newmark for the San Francisco
Bay Area. After incorporation as a private for-profit company in 1999,
Craigslist expanded into nine more U.S. cities in 2000, four each in
2001 and 2002, and 14 in 2003. As of September 2007, Craigslist had
established itself in approximately 450 cities in 50 countries.
As of 2007, Craigslist operates with a staff of 24 people. Its sole
source of revenue is paid job ads in select cities ($75 per ad for the
San Francisco Bay Area; $25 per ad for New York, Los Angeles, San
Diego, Boston, Seattle, Washington D.C., Chicago and recently Portland,
Oregon) and paid broker apartment listings in New York City ($10 per
The site serves over nine billion page views per month, putting it in
47th place overall among web sites world wide, ninth place overall
among web sites in the United States (per Alexa.com on August 21,
2008), to over thirty million unique visitors. With over thirty million
new classified advertisements each month, Craigslist is the leading
classifieds service in any medium. The site receives over two million
new job listings each month, making it one of the top job boards in the
world. The classified advertisements range from traditional buy/sell
ads and community announcements, to personal ads and even erotic
In December 2006, at the UBS Global Media Conference in New York,
Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster told Wall Street analysts that Craigslist
has little interest in maximizing profit, instead preferring to help
users find cars, apartments, jobs, and dates.
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. It
is believed to be owned principally by Newmark, Buckmaster, and eBay
(the three board members). eBay owns approximately 25%, and Newmark is
believed to own the largest stake.
Having observed people helping one another in a friendly, social and
trusting community way on the Internet, the WELL, and Usenet, and
feeling isolated as a relative newcomer to San Francisco, Craigslist
founder Craig Newmark decided to create something similar for local
The first postings debuted in early 1995. The initial technology
encountered some limits, so by June 1995 majordomo had been installed
and the mailing list "craigslist" resumed operations. 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 San
Soon, word of mouth led to rapid growth. Both subscribers and the
number of postings grew rapidly. There was no moderation, so Newmark
was surprised when people started using the mailing list for non-event
postings. People trying to fill technical positions 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 category for "jobs". User demand for more
categories caused the list of categories to grow. About this time,
community members started asking for a web interface. Newmark enlisted
the help of volunteers and contractors to create a website user
interface for the different mailing list categories. Needing a domain
name for this, Craig registered "craigslist.org" (and later,
"craigslist.com", to prevent the name "craigslist" from being used for
other purposes). About this time, Newmark realized that the site was
growing so fast that he could stop working as a software engineer and
work full time running craigslist. By April 2000, there were nine
employees working out of Newmark's apartment on Cole Street in San
Newmark says that Craigslist works because it gives people a voice, a
sense of community trust and even intimacy. Other factors he cites are
consistency of down-to-earth values, customer service and simplicity.
After first being approached about running banner ads, Newmark decided
to keep Craigslist non-commercial. In 2002, Craigslist staff posted
mock-banner ads throughout the site as an April Fools joke.
Significant Events for
To avoid illegal or inappropriate ads, Craigslist visitors can flag an
ad if they think it is against the site policy.
- 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
- 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. No disclaimer was on the "men seeking women," "women seeking men"
or "women seeking women" boards. Responding 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".
Today, all of the above listed boards (as well as some others) lead to
- 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 was added called "Gigs", where low-cost and unpaid jobs and
internships can be posted for free.
- On August 13, 2004, Newmark announced on his blog that
auction giant eBay had purchased a 25% stake in the company from a
former principal. Some fans of Craigslist have expressed concern that
this development will affect the site's longtime non-commercial nature,
but it remains to be seen what ramifications the change will actually
have. As of July 2008, there have been no substantive changes to the
usefulness or non-advertising nature of the site (still no banner ads,
still only charging for a few services to businesses).
- In July 2005, Craigslist won the right to beam over 2
million classified ads into deep space (one light year away) in the
near future after Buckmaster won an eBay auction for broadcasting time
from the company Deep Space Communications Network. Newmark said, "We
believe there could be an infinite market opportunity" in space.
- 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%". In response, Craigslist
filed a countersuit against eBay in May 2008 "to remedy the substantial
and ongoing harm to fair competition" that Craigslist claims is
constituted by eBay's actions as Craigslist shareholders.
- Related media
- In 2003 Michael Ferris Gibson filmed the documentary 24
Hours on Craigslist.
- In November 2007, Ryan J. Davis directed Jeffery Self's
solo show 'My Life On The Craigslist' at Off-Broadway's New World
Stages. 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.
- Controversies and illegal activities by users
- On February 3, 2006, Craigslist was sued by the Chicago
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law for allegedly allowing
users to post discriminatory housing ads in Chicago that violate the
Fair Housing Act. The case was subsequently dismissed because of
immunity granted by the Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
- On September 8, 2006, several sites reported that
Craigslist's "Casual Encounters" forums in several cities had been
compromised by individuals posting fraudulent ads in order to obtain
personal information about people. This information, including email
addresses, phone numbers, home addresses, photos, etc. was publicly
- On September 12, 2007, A woman from Minneapolis pled guilty
in federal court to running an underage prostitution ring through
- On February 8, 2008, a Michigan woman was charged with
using Craigslist to hire a contract killer to murder a romantic rival.
- In April 2008, a couple was charged with placing an ad on
Craigslist inviting the public to take anything from a man's home in
Oregon, leading to the loss of his possessions. The couple had placed
this ad to cover up their own burglary of his house.
- May 27, 2008: In Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada), a
police report that a Vancouver couple attempted to sell their week-old
baby on the site; the couple claims that the posting was just a joke.
The investigation is ongoing.
- In July 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle criticized
Craigslist for allowing ads from dog breeders, and thereby allegedly
encouraging the over breeding and irresponsible selling of pit bulls in
the Bay Area.
- In January 2006, the San Francisco Bay Guardian published
an editorial criticizing Craigslist for moving into local communities
and "threatening to eviscerate" local alternative newspapers.
Craigslist has been compared to Wal-Mart, a multinational corporation
that some feel crushes small local businesses when they move into towns
and offer a huge assortment of goods at cheaper prices.
- In August 2007, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin wrote a
letter to Craigslist asking the company to take steps to avoid
unwittingly enabling child prostitution through its classified ads.
In 2001, the company started the Craigslist Foundation, a § 501(c)(3)
nonprofit organization that helps emerging nonprofit organizations get
established, gain visibility, attract the attention of potential
donors, and develop the skills and knowledge required for long-term
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".
- NYPRESS: 2003, Best Local Website, by Manhattan Reader's
- Webby: 2001, Best Community Site, by the Academy
The first 14 city sites were:
In November 2004, Amsterdam, Bangalore, Paris, Sao Paulo and Tokyo
became the first cities outside primarily English-speaking countries.
- March 1995: San Francisco Bay Area
- June 2000: Boston
- August 2000: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San
Diego, Seattle, Washington, D.C.
- October 2000: Sacramento
- April 2001: Atlanta, Austin, Denver, Vancouver
- Vancouver, British Columbia, was the first non U.S. city
included. London was the first city outside North America.
As of May 2008, 500 "cities" in 50 countries are represented. Note that
some Craigslist sites cover large regions instead of individual
metropolitan areas—for example, the U.S. states of Delaware and
Wyoming, the Colorado Western Slope, and the Upper Peninsula of
Michigan are among the locations with their own Craigslist sites.
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