Thursday, March 02, 2006

Craig's brilliant creation: Craigslist.org

Craig's brilliant creation

Craigslist.org has become one of the nation's best community-building websites

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Pittsburgh Portal

Like many cities around the world, Pittsburgh has its own section on the site. Although not as built-up as the San Francisco or New York City sections, the Pittsburgh section is growing. Like the rest of the site, the Pittsburgh part of Craigslist allows visitors to scan through sale advertisements, housing offers, and personal advertisements for potential romantic partners ? all at no cost. Before you find something or someone that you are interested in, the sellers? postings on personal advertisements and individual sale items can remain anonymous. However, when buyers are interested in a request or offer, they can begin to exchange information with sellers via e-mail. Similar to eBay?s trading policy, the site is only a market and does not directly give out individuals? contact information without their consent.

Although the Pittsburgh section of Craigslist was not added until November 2003, the site has already begun to gain a cultlike following in Pittsburgh. Bethany Rutter, a sophomore in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, has used Craigslist on several occasions. ?Craigslist is great considering that it?s so easy to find anything you want in Pittsburgh or any other city; and where else can you find free stuff, cheap stuff, furniture, books, jobs, discussion forums, housing, concert tickets, and even dates? Nowhere! Rutter has even received a free television from a local Pittsburgh resident on the site earlier this semester.

One of the first things that you will notice about Craigslist is the lack of annoying pop-up ads and banner ads, because the site is free for all house postings (except for listings in San Francisco). Another striking feature of the site is its simplistic layout. There are no frills; no flashy graphics, no innovative designs. Just the information you need at your fingertips and the power to connect to others in your community.

Geeky Good Guy

Craig is the kind of guy that a Carnegie Mellon girl could appreciate: nerdy but nice. In fact, the Los Angeles Times reported on June 13, 2004, in ?The Craigslist Phenomenon? that he ?wore a pocket protector and black-rimmed glasses, taped together? in high school. In the same interview with the Times, he later commented that ?when you grow up a nerd, you feel like an outsider. It pretty much always sticks with you.? Note to all Carngie Mellon nerds: being an outsider might stick with you, but it definitely doesn?t have to hold you back.

Craig is introverted, but has a heart much bigger than his wallet. He donates money to charities on a regular basis and has formed the Craigslist Foundation, which allows teachers to request school supplies at a discounted price. Although the site is no longer a non-profit, Craig?s mission of helping others has not changed.

Beyond being a generous guy, Craig refuses to be a sell-out to bigger corporations interested in buying craigslist.org to capitalize on its potential earning power. Forbes magazine reported in 2005 that the site brings in an estimated $7 million but also estimates that Craig only walks away with about $200,000 a year. As he explained to Wired in September 2004, ?When I think of the money one could make from all this, I get a little twinge. But I?m pretty happy with nerd values: Get yourself a comfortable living, then do a little something to change the world.?

Craig writes on Craigslist that he originally hoped to call the site ?sf-events,? but the site?s current name reflects just how down-to-Earth this guy really is. He?s definitely not about making money; in fact, he only charges for five percent of all job postings made on the site and has made the site ad-free since 1997.

Community-Building

The site lists its many goals to be ?giving each other a break; getting the word out about everyday; real-world stuff; restoring the human voice to the Internet; in a humane; non-commercial environment; keeping things simple; common-sense; down-to-earth; honest, very real; providing an alternative to impersonal, big-media sites;being inclusive; giving a voice to the disenfranchised; democratizing; and being a collection of communities with similar spirit, not a single monolithic entity.?

In a world of monopoly-building corporate mergers, shady business dealings, and Enron-esque scandals, it is definitely rare to see a person let alone an entire site dedicated to the preservation of ?giving each other a break.? In May 1995, the San Francisco Weekly named Craigslist the ?Best Example of Actual Community-Building Online? and in July 2001, the site picked up the title of ?Best Community Website Jury Prize? and ?Best Community Website People?s Voice? at the Webby Awards.

Love Listings

Whether you are looking for love or arm candy, Craigslist can pair you up with your perfect match. Currently, on the Pittsburgh section of Craigslist, there are well over 100 personal ads for every possible combination of companionship: man seeking woman, woman seeking man, man seeking man, and woman seeking woman. And since Pittsburgh is a notoriously bad place to be single, it might be worth your time to look into the ads.

One of the more sincere man-seeking-woman ads currently posted on the Pittsburgh site is a man ?looking for someone to keep me company once in a while, someone who I can depend on as a source of comfort, or something like that. Basically, I?ve been feeling a little lonely, and would like some company. We can take it from there. So e-mail me back if you?re interested, and let?s get this thing started.?

If you?re not looking to head down to the altar just yet, there are also those who just want to look cool with you by their side. Another Pittsburgh resident currently posting on the ?strictly platonic? section of the personal advertisement section is ?looking for someone who wants to walk at night and have a conversation. Around the streets or local track it doesn?t matter to me. I just love to walk and talk!?

Final Thoughts

Craigslist has grown from one man?s attempt to unite his city to an online community. Although Craig has passed on the title of CEO to Jim Buckmaster, 10 million people from all over the world continue to use the site each month. Craig and his cohorts have managed to keep their goal of providing users with ?a trustworthy, efficient, relatively non-commercial place for folks to find all the basics in their local area.? In June 2004, Time magazine reported that the site was one of the ?50 Coolest Websites,? and in April 2000 the Wall Street Journal named Craigslist the ?#1 most efficient U.S. job site.? Despite this success and the financial potential of his creation, Craig has managed to remain a normal, down-to-earth guy.

Craig?s creation is especially useful for students wishing to voice an opinion, buy cheap furniture, or find someone to take to a fraternity formal. Sure, Craig Newark could be sitting on his own private island, drinking a Corona, and lighting his cigars with hundred-dollar bills. Instead, he still works long hours at his office and probably cringes when tax day comes around. (Maybe he should post for someone to file his tax returns.) But more than being a useful site, Craigslist is one of the best examples of what happens when people refuse to sell out.

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