The Self-Made Man: Craig Newmark
Craigslist is a modern marvel. It’s part classifieds listing, part dating site, part employment site, and part window into the sad, isolated desperation in which many of us live. Seriously, take a stroll through Missed Encounters when you’ve got some free time. It’s a cabinet of broken toys in there.
Craigslist is also the work of Craig Newmark, an entrepreneur whose contribution to online culture came from an enduring faith in the power of community. Originally from New Jersey, Newmark understandably got the hell out of there and moved to San Francisco, where he started an email list for social events in the area, after seeing similar bulletins on Usenet and Mindvox.
Craigslist grew by word-of-mouth, since it was a necessity in an area full of busy young professionals and tailored to a specific audience (software and website developers). Newmark’s listing was originally created for his own benefit as much as anyone else’s, but he found that people were using his list as a hiring tool, so he added a jobs category. As more people subscribed and posted, they demanded more categories, and then a web interface, which went live in 1996.
Three years later, Craigslist was incorporated as a private for-profit company, and Newmark achieved the ultimate goal of all entrepreneurs everywhere by quitting his day job to work on his pet project full-time. Craigslist began rolling out into more cities and regions, and it’s still growing today.
Newmark’s story is almost quaint when compared to modern success stories in which well-connected wunderkinds come up with an idea and then wait around for venture capitalists to fund it, but he revels in that kind of simplicity. I mean, his business model is literally one sentence. “On day one,” he told Gizmodo, “I started a cycle of asking what people want and need, listening to feedback, doing something about that.” Padmapper.com would probably disagree with that, but Craigslist’s whole ethos, from their user interface on down, is to be as simple and community-oriented as possible, and it is, more or less.
I mean, even the weirdos we all mock for their bizarre/gross/demanding personals ads are really just trying to find other people to be bizarre/gross/demanding with, ya know?
Anyway, here’s a fun CNBC interview with Craig in which he explains Craiglist’s growth, values (mostly related to advertising), and other such topics.
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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.