Craigslist Inc.
Type Private company
Founded 1995 (incorporated 1999)
Founder Craig Newmark
Headquarters San Francisco Bay Area, United States[1]
Area served 570 cities in 50 countries
Key people Jim Buckmaster (CEO)
Services Web Communications
Employees 32
Alexa rank decrease 36 (November 2011)[2]
Type of site Classifieds, forums
Advertising None
Registration Optional
Available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese
Launched 1995
Current status Active
Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, in 2006

Craigslist is a centralized network of online communities, featuring free online classified advertisements – with sections devoted to jobs, housing, personals, for sale, services, community, gigs, résumés, and discussion forums.

Craig Newmark began the service in 1995 as an email distribution list of friends, featuring local events in the San Francisco Bay Area, before becoming a web-based service in 1996 and expanding into other classified categories. It started expanding to other U.S. cities in 2000, and currently covers 50 countries.



Having observed people helping one another in friendly, social and trusting communal ways on the Internet via the WELL, MindVox and Usenet, and feeling isolated as a relative newcomer to San Francisco, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark decided to create something similar for local events.[3][4] In early 1995, he began an email distribution list to friends. 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 the San Francisco Bay Area.

Soon, word of mouth led to rapid growth. The number of subscribers and postings grew rapidly. There was no moderation and Newmark was surprised when people started using the mailing list for non-event postings.[citation needed] People trying to get technical positions filled 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. The initial technology encountered some limits, so by June 1995 majordomo had been installed and the mailing list "Craigslist" resumed operations. Community members started asking for a web interface. Craig registered "", and the web site went live in 1996.

By early 1998, Newmark still thought his career was as a software engineer ("hardcore java programmer") and that Craigslist was a cool hobby that was getting him invited to the best parties for geeks and nerds.[citation needed] In the fall of 1998, the name "List Foundation" was introduced and Craigslist started transitioning to the use of this name. In April 1999, when Newmark learned of other organizations called "List Foundation", the use of this name was dropped. Craigslist incorporated as a private for-profit company in 1999.[3] Around the time of these events, 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 in San Francisco.[5]

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 2000.[6]

The web site expanded into nine more U.S. cities in 2000, four in 2001 and 2002 each, and 14 in 2003. 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 called "Gigs" was added, where low-cost and unpaid jobs and internships can be posted free.

Expansion to more cities

The first 14 city sites were:[7] (entire list)

Vancouver, British Columbia was the first non-U.S. city included. London was the first city outside of North America.

In November 2004, Amsterdam, Bangalore, Paris, São Paulo, and Tokyo became the first cities outside primarily English-speaking countries.

As of May 2008, 500 "cities" in 50 countries have Craigslist sites.[7] Some Craigslist sites cover large regions instead of individual metropolitan areas—for example, the US states of Delaware and Wyoming, the Colorado Western Slope, the California Gold Country, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan are among the locations with their own Craigslist sites. As of 24 September 2009 (2009 -09-24), there are 695 unique Craigslist sites that can be posted to.


Craigslist headquarters in the Sunset District of San Francisco.

The site serves over 20 billion page views per month, putting it in 37th place overall among web sites worldwide and 10th place overall among web sites in the United States (per on March 24, 2011), with over 49.4 million unique monthly visitors in the United States alone (per on January 8, 2010). With over 80 million new classified advertisements each month, Craigslist is the leading classifieds service in any medium. The site receives over 2 million new job listings each month, making it one of the top job boards in the world.[8][9] The 23 largest US Cities listed on the Craigslist home page collectively receive more than 300,000 postings per day just in the "for sale" and "housing" sections as of October, 2011.[10] The classified advertisements range from traditional buy/sell ads and community announcements to personal ads.

In 2009, Craigslist operated with a staff of 28 people.[11]

Financials and ownership

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 it prefers to help users find cars, apartments, jobs, and dates.[12][13]

Craigslist's main 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 City, Los Angeles, San Diego, Boston, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Orange County (California) and Portland, Oregon – and paid broker apartment listings in New York City ($10 per ad).

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.[14][15][16]

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 expressed concern that this development would affect the site's longtime non-commercial nature, but it remains to be seen what ramifications the change will actually have. As of May 2011, there have been no substantive changes to the usefulness or non-advertising nature of the site—no banner ads, charges for a few services provided to businesses.

The company 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.[16][17][7]

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%."[18] In response, Craigslist filed a counter-suit 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.[19]

Site characteristics

The site is notable for having undergone only minor design changes since its inception; even by 1996 standards, the design is very simple. Since 2001, the site design has remained virtually unchanged, and as of April 2010, Craigslist continues to avoid using images and uses only minimal CSS and JavaScript, a design philosophy common in the late 1990s but almost unheard of today for a major website.[citation needed]

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. Newmark was approached with an offer for running banner ads on Craigslist, but he decided to decline. In 2002, Craigslist staff posted mock-banner ads throughout the site as an April Fools' Day joke.[20]


In March 2008, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese became the first non-English languages supported.[21]


Craigslist has a user flagging system to quickly identify illegal and inappropriate postings. Classified ad flagging does not require account log in or registration, and can be made anonymously by any visitor.[22] When a certain number of users flag a posting, it is removed. The number of flaggings required for a posting's removal is variable and remains unknown to all but[22] Items are flagged for three categories: misplaced, prohibited, or spam/overpost.[23] Although users are given a short description of each flagging category, users ultimately flag on their preference, prejudice, or misunderstanding of the Craigslist Terms of Use.[24] Flaggings can also occur as acts of disruptive vandalism and for the removal of competitors postings.[22] To better understand and clarify flagging it is up to the users to define rules themselves in such places as the Unofficial Flagging FAQ[25] and the flag help forum.[26] The Flag Help Forum is an unmoderated volunteer community, it is not staffed by Craigslist employees, and it is not affiliated with[27] The forum volunteers have no access to information about user accounts or ads, and must rely upon information supplied by the ad poster to try and piece together the reason an ad was flagged and removed.[28] The Flag Help Forum's unmoderated format allows anyone to post anonymously and without accountability.[29] The forums usefulness and effectiveness can be compromised by people who post malicious replies to help threads.[28]


Over the years Craigslist has become a very popular online destination for arranging for dates, and sex.[30][31][32][33][34] The personals section allows for postings that are for "strictly platonic", "dating/romance", and "casual encounters".[30][31][33][34]

The site has been found to be particularly appealing to help connect lesbians and gay men with one another because of its free and open nature in addition to it being hard to find gay people in one's area for some.[35]

In 2005, San Francisco Craigslist's men seeking men section was attributed to facilitating sexual encounters and was the second most common correlation to Syphilis infections.[35] The company has been pressured by San Francisco Department of Public Health officials leading Jim Buckmaster to state that the site has a very small staff and that the public must police themselves.[35] They have however added links to San Francisco City Clinic and STD forums.[35]

Adult services controversies and closure

Craiglist website as it appeared on September 4, 2010 with black censored box in place of Adult Services

Advertisements for "adult" (previously "erotic") services were initially given special treatment, then closed entirely on September 4, 2010, following a controversy over claims by state attorneys general that the advertisements promoted prostitution.[36][37]

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, but no disclaimer was put on the "men seeking women", "women seeking men" or "women seeking women" boards. As a response 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."[38] Today, all of the above listed boards (as well as some others) have a disclaimer.

On May 13, 2009, Craigslist announced that it would close the erotic services section, replacing it with an adult services section to be reviewed by Craigslist employees. This decision came after allegations by several U.S. states that the erotic services ads were being used for prostitution.[39] Postings to the new category cost $10 and could be renewed for $5.

On September 4, 2010, Craigslist closed the adult services section of its website in the United States. The site initially replaced the adult services page link with the word "censored" in white-on-black text. The site received criticism and complaints from attorneys general that the section's ads were facilitating prostitution and child sex trafficking.[40][41]

The adult services section link was still active in countries outside of the U.S.[40] Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said, "Craigslist isn't legally culpable for these posts, but the public pressure has increased and Craigslist is a small company." Brian Carver, attorney and assistant professor at UC Berkeley, said that legal threats could have a chilling effect on online expression. "If you impose liability on Craigslist, YouTube and Facebook for anything their users do, then they're not going to take chances. It would likely result in the takedown of what might otherwise be perfectly legitimate free expression."[41]

On September 8, 2010, the "censored" label and its dead link to adult services were completely removed.[42][43]

Craigslist announced on September 15, 2010, that it had closed its adult services in the United States for good. However, it defended its right to carry such ads and its efforts to fight prostitution and sex trafficking. Free speech and some sex crime victim advocates criticized the removal of the section, saying that it threatened free speech and that it diminished law enforcement's ability to track criminals. However, the removal was applauded by many state attorneys general and some other groups fighting sex crimes. Craigslist said that there is some indication that those who posted ads in the adult services section are posting elsewhere. Sex ads cost $10 initially and it was estimated they would have brought in $44 million this year had they continued.[44][45] In the four months following the closure, monthly revenue from sex ads on six other sites (primarily increased from $2.1 to $3.1 million, partly due to price increases.[46]

On December 19, 2010, after pressure from Ottawa and several provinces, Craigslist closed 'Erotic Services' and 'Adult Gigs' from its Canadian website.[47]

As predicted by many, the ads in question simply moved to the talent section.


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.[48]

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 lower prices.[49]


  • 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.[50] The case, Chicago Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights Under Law v. Craigslist, was subsequently dismissed because of immunity granted by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.[51]
  • 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 posted online.[52]
  • On September 12, 2007, a woman from Minneapolis, Minnesota pleaded guilty in federal court to running an underage prostitution ring through Craigslist.[53]
  • On October 26, 2007, Katherine Olson, a Minneapolis woman, was found murdered in the trunk of her car after she responded through Craigslist to what she thought was a job as a nanny; the ad had actually been placed by "Craigslist Killer" Michael John Anderson.[54] Anderson was convicted of his "Craigslist Killing" in 2009.
  • On February 8, 2008, a Michigan woman was charged with using Craigslist to hire a contract killer to murder a romantic rival in Oroville, California.[55][56]
  • On March 22, 2008, Bernard George Lamp, 51 of Troutman, North Carolina was arrested for the murder of Bonnie Lou Irvine, 52, of Cornelius, North Carolina; she had agreed to meet him after she responded to his ad on Craigslist.[57]
  • In April 2008, a Minneapolis couple were indicted for using Craigslist to advertise for sexual services, and then picking the pockets of those who responded. Eric Christopher Thorsen, 25, and Amy Ruth Bergquist, 30, then used stolen identification, checks and credit cards to purchase merchandise from online retailers as well as prescription drugs. In addition the couple were responsible for tens of thousands of dollars of bank fraud throughout the Twin Cities area.[58] Thorsen and Bergquist ultimately pleaded guilty to trafficking in stolen documents and aggravated identity theft; Thorsen was sentenced to five years in Federal Prison, Bergquist to three and a half.[59]
  • 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.[60]
  • On May 27, 2008, in Vancouver, British Columbia, police reported that a Vancouver couple had attempted to sell their week-old baby on the site, but the couple claimed that it was merely a joke. The investigation is ongoing.[61]
  • On November 7, 2008, after reaching an accord with over forty of the United States' top prosecutors, Craigslist announced that it would crack down on ads for prostitution by requiring people who post "erotic services" ads to provide a working phone number and pay a fee with a valid credit card.[62]
  • On December 7, 2008, Matthew Hicks, 32, was fatally shot after robbing, assaulting and attempting to murder Willie Donaldson, 35, in Arlington, Virginia, whom he had met through his girlfriend, who had met Donaldson via Craigslist; in January, 2009, Donaldson was indicted for the murder, but was subsequently acquitted on Jan 23.[63]
  • On March 5, 2009, Cook County, Illinois Sheriff Tom Dart's Department filed a lawsuit against Craigslist, accusing the site of "knowingly promoting and facilitating prostitution" in its "erotic services" advertisement section.[64][65] The company argued that it could hardly be expected to sift successfully through the vast volume of listings it received every day; nor was it required to by federal law; in fact, federal law protected it from criminal proceedings for failure to do so.[66]
  • On March 20, 2009, the ABC radio news reporter George Weber was allegedly murdered by John Katehis in Brooklyn. The two had met via Craigslist; Weber was found bound and stabbed fifty times.[67]
  • On April 20, 2009, Richard (last name not mentioned) and his mother were attacked in Tacoma, WA with a hammer after seeing a bogus car ad on Craigslist. This was reported in the national news.[68]
  • On April 20, 2009, Boston police arrested twenty-three-year-old Boston University medical student Philip Markoff of Quincy, Massachusetts, on suspicion of the armed robbery and murder of Julissa Brisman, whose massage services were advertised on Craigslist in Boston and Rhode Island,[69] and whose corpse was found on April 14 in a Boston hotel. Markoff is accused of first bludgeoning and then shooting her with a gun. He then was accused of another armed robbery of an escort in another Boston hotel several days earlier and an attempted armed robbery at a Warwick, Rhode Island hotel two days later. He was arrested the following week while driving to a casino with his fiancée. He pleaded not guilty.[66] On August 15, 2010, he committed suicide in his jail cell while awaiting trial.[70]
  • Subsequent to the Brisman murder, a widely publicized crime, state attorneys general countrywide plied increased pressure on the site "to shutter what they call the nation's busiest virtual street corner, where prostitution runs rampant."[66] Although Craigslist claims to have reduced inappropriate erotic listings by 95 per cent since its accord with prosecutors in November 2008, the attorneys hold that there are still hundreds of such listings emerging every day, and that the company really ought to do more. South Carolina Atty Gen. Henry McMaster threatened the company with criminal proceedings, but it swiftly employed the same defense that it used against Dart.[66]
  • In June 2009, Korena Roberts of Oregon was arrested for allegedly killing 21-year-old Heather Snively—who was eight-months pregnant—and her unborn baby, by cutting open her abdomen. They were reported to have met through an advertisement by Roberts on Craigslist for the sale of baby clothes.[71]
  • In June 2009, Joseph Brooks, a 71-year-old Oscar Award winning film director and songwriter was arrested on 11 counts of rape, including 9 counts of raping women aged 18 to 30 whom he met through advertisements offering film roles on Craigslist. Brooks won his Academy Award for writing the Debbie Boone song You Light Up My Life in 1977 and also directed the film of the same name.[72]
  • In August 2009, members of Pranknet, a virtual community established around harassing people via Skype, were outed on The Smoking Gun for activities that also included posting fraudulent ads on Craigslist and then shouting racist, sexually graphic and obscene tirades at people who called to inquire about their ads. Pranknet members also responded to ads placed by young women selling household goods, feigned interest in making a purchase, and when they learned the woman's address, proclaimed they were on their way over to rape them and murder their children.[73]
  • In December 2009, a Lucchese crime family associate attempted to steal an engagement ring from a seller on Craigslist by attacking him with mace, but was caught after the intervention of a passer-by.[74]
  • In April 2010, a family of four was terrorized by four people who responded to a Craigslist ad for the sale of a diamond ring. The father, 43-year-old Jimmy Sanders, was murdered defending his eldest son after letting a couple into their home to look at the ring who proceeded to take out a gun and let two more accomplices enter the Edgewood, Washington home. Four suspects were taken into police custody.[75]

Nonprofit foundation

In 2001, the company started the Craigslist Foundation,[76] a § 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers free and low cost events and online resources to promote community building at all levels. 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".

Since 2004, the Craigslist Foundation has hosted an annual conference called Boot Camp, an in-person event that focuses on skills for connecting, motivating and inspiring greater community involvement and impact. Boot Camp has drawn more than 10,000 people since its inception.[citation needed] The latest Boot Camp event was held on Saturday, August 14, 2010.[77]

The Craigslist Foundation is also the fiscal sponsor for Our Good Works, the organization that manages, an application that distributes volunteer opportunities across the web and helps people get involved in their communities.[78]

Related media

  • In November 2007, Ryan J. Davis directed Jeffery Self's solo show My Life on the Craigslist at Off-Broadway's New World Stages.[79] 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.[80]
  • Nerdcore hip-hop musician Schäffer the Darklord recorded a song called "Craig's List" for his 2007 album, Mark of the Beast.
  • On June 16, 2009, "Weird Al" Yankovic released a song titled "Craigslist", which is a parody of the website, done in the style of The Doors.
  • On January 3, 2011, a movie named The Craigslist Killer premiered on Lifetime featuring the story of Philip Markoff, who was accused of robbing and/or murdering several sex workers he met through Craigslist's adult services section.
  • The premise of the sitcom New Girl centers around a girl (Zooey Deschanel) who looks on Craigslist to find new roommates. She misunderstands one of the listings and ends up moving in with three men, when she had intended to find female roommates.

See also


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