The Craig of The Craigslist

Tonight I got to enjoy a benefit of living in a reasonably metro-area, and an excellent art museum & school nearby to hear Craig Newmark, the developer/inventor of craigslist. He had a discussion with one of the deputy editors of Wired Magazine.

Craig is definitely a geek, but also a geek who has gained some interesting experience with web society. To start-off, Craigslist currently has 190 sites in 35 countries, 10 million viewers per month looking at over 3 billion pages. All this with only 21 employees. For me, that was the biggest suprise of the night. With the amount of moderation, infrastructure, support, development, accounting, managing, selling (real estate, job, and apartment postings are paid), for 10 million users per month, this seems rather amazing.

Overall, the discussion was around how Craigslist, while not radical in its own right, has been steadily at the forefront and plodding along with the forefront of web culture and a connected society. The moderator brought up the points that Craigslist has been accused for the: death of newspapers, end of proper scientific study, and even the demise of pimps. It is an excellent example of user-created content made for other users creates an entire culture. It came at a time when the technology was becoming widespread and people wanted a new method of disseminating information, thoughts, and odd items for sale nearby. Craigslist was also the inspiration behind what I think was the first Web 2.0 mashup, HousingMaps (which retains as stark a UI as Craigslist itself).

Traditional media and culture is complaining that this "free for all" is ruining their revenue streams while also bringing down quality. Yet, people continue to seek and use this truly level forum rather than the Top-Down, one-way direction of traditional media. As Craig pointed out, for example, online/electronic forums can "deal with" information that is out there by correcting it, removing it, moderating it or otherwise, whereas traditional media will not be able to react, retract, or correct the original (and possibly inappropriate) classified ad or news article.

Lastly, there was discussion of the various "wars" that are waged on online forums like Craigslist. The current big war is the hot-bed discussion between pet-breeders and people who want their animal companions au naturál. There are also continual problems of dis-information ala certain public officials.

You know you've done well as a Website when you warrant your own Wikipedia article.

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Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.