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from US News and World Report, August 9, 2004

How do I love craig? Let me list the ways

By Bret Schulte

KC got an angry call from his ex-girlfriend. "Were you out clubbing last weekend?" she demanded. The 26-year-old Washingtonian confessed. But how did she know? "You've just made craigslist, " she spat out. "The way she said it," KC recalls, "made me think it was a website where girls made fun of guys."

Not quite-- is a buzzing Internet bulletin board. A girl KC met at the club wanted him to call. So she posted a note, mentioning a T-shirt that his jealous ex recognized. "That was the last time I heard from her," KC says, but he couldn't be happier in his new relationship--with craigslist.

Five million people a month visit the no-frills franchise that is part town hall, part free-for-all, and part classifieds. Folks post messages seeking platonic pals and romantic partners, bargains ($20 surround-sound speakers) and barter deals (two oil changes can land you a home-cooked meal in San Francisco). And they argue over everything from the virtue of coed locker rooms to the best way to grow rosemary. Founded in San Francisco in 1995 by namesake Craig Newmark, craigslist has grown to cover about a dozen major metro areas and is now rolling out to smaller cities like Norfolk, Va., and Orlando. The site's effect on its birthplace has been documented in the film 24 hours on craigslist , due this fall.

Even with its expansive popularity, craigslist remains a stranger to millions. "The folks who get the most out of craigslist are 20-to-30-somethings in transition," says CEO Jim Buckmaster, who has presided over the expansion to 44 cities in the United States and Canada (plus London). "They need a new job; they need stuff for their apartment. They need to plug into a new social scene."

That dedication to neighborliness makes craigslist a powerful grass-roots gathering place. Users flag hate messages and spam for elimination. Founder Newmark invests 40 hours a week trying to keep fraudulent ads off his site. When Cait Dobson got taken by a New York City apartment scam, "Craig Newmark himself offered to help us file the police report," she said.

The feel-good forum was born when Newmark began E-mailing lists of local events to friends. They began adding their own messages--lost pets, cars for sale, political commentary--until Newmark re-created the list as a website.

Expenses are marginal. The site employs about 15 people, mostly in customer service and technology roles. The revenue stream: Employers in San Francisco pay to post want ads. That policy will extend to New York City and Los Angeles this week. In typically progressive fashion, craigslist decides what to charge by asking users "what seems fair," says Newmark.

Newly added cities begin with a blank page, which might discourage first-timers. But craigaholics aren't worried. After years in the craigslist city of Boston, Andy LeBlanc, 25, recently relocated to Indianapolis, which got its own page in May. His inquiry for coed softball leagues was written in the hope of getting to know his new town. And he's already received his first reply.

Cracking Craig

Software engineer Craig Newmark started in 1995 to help people buy, sell, and connect locally. It now serves 45 cities.

Q: What has surprised you most?

A: That even though classifieds are a pretty mundane thing, people feel connected through this.

Q: Does craigslist spell the end of newspaper classifieds?

A: I don't predict much. I'm still bitter about no lunar colonies and not wearing jet packs.

Q: How does craigslist reflect you?

A: As a nerd, I retain the seeds of innocence or cluelessness, and I want life to be fair.

Q: Does Craig still use craigslist?

A: I sold my car that way a couple years ago.

Q: What names were rejected?

A: I was going to try SF Events, but people who were smarter than me said call it craigslist. That's good because when somebody tries something ugly on there, I take it personally.