Craig and His List

By Fish, Peter | Sunset, November 2004 | Go to article overview

Craig and His List


Fish, Peter, Sunset


My friend Fred wasn't looking for a saxophone case. But during his daily cruise of the For Sale Musical Instruments board on Craigslist, there it was: a baritone sax case, near-new, one-third off retail. Emails were exchanged; Fred met the owner in a parking lot, bought the case, and had a nice chat about saxophones.

My wife knits. She scans the Craigslist Arts Forum for advice about casting on and binding off and the other unfathomable stuff you do with yarn. It's advice you used to get from a great aunt, except that no one has great aunts around anymore--they're all off at Elderhostels. But everyone has Craigslist.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

www.craigslist.org: If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area--increasingly, if you live anywhere--you type that URL as easily as you type your own name. Craigslist is where you go to find a used bicycle or new girlfriend or, in one recent instance, to search--successfully--for a kidney donor. Craigslist is the brainchild of Craig Newmark. "I'm not all that smart," Newmark says, explaining how he created a service as essential as air. "But I am persistent. Or, if you prefer, stubborn."

The stubborn Newmark arrived in San Francisco in 1993 as a self-described New Jersey computer nerd. The Internet was a wave beginning to build. Newmark saw possibilities, ways for people to help other people. He launched an email list, spreading word of cultural happenings to a small circle of friends. The circle grew. The friends suggested he add other items to his list: jobs, apartments, used cars.

Today, Craigslist pops up on your computer screen displaying a universe of possibilities limned in clean blue type. Categories range from the cozy--that arts forum--to the more adventuresome: Casual Encounters. The list operates in 57 cities, Los Angeles to London, each month publishing 3 million new classified ads and 1 million community forum postings.

Naturally, with his list a triumph, Newmark now suits up in Dolce & Gabbana and operates his empire from a 30-story office tower. No. I made that up. Newmark is still rumpled and self-effacing, and Craigslist is still headquartered in a Victorian in San Francisco's Inner Sunset District.

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