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How Craigslist Works


The Craigslist Network
The craigslist welcome page displays the different search categories and communities.
The craigslist welcome page displays the different search categories and communities.
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Each craigslist site focuses on a specific community. Originally, craigslist only listed classifieds and announcements within San Francisco. As the service grew in popularity, expanding well beyond founder Craig Newmark's original concept, craigslist added other cities to its network. The first city to join the network was Boston in 2000. A couple of months later, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, San Diego, Seattle and Washington, D.C. followed suit. Today, more than 450 cities have a craigslist community site.

Because community members largely moderate the sites, craigslist employees can focus their attention on coordinating transactions for job and housing posts, helping members troubleshoot problems and responding to reports of abuse or illegal behavior. Without communal moderation, the craigslist staff would be severely overworked.

According to craigslist's fact sheet, every month craigslist has:

  • more than 25 million new classified ads
  • more than 1.5 million job postings
  • more than 75 million user postings in the forums section
  • more than 10 million new photos uploaded (users can include pictures in their advertisements as long as the photos don't violate craigslist's terms of use)
  • more than 30 million user visits, most of which are from the United States
  • more than 8 billion page views, putting craigslist in the top 10 English-language sites

The executive team at craigslist maintains that the reason for the site's success is the user community. The team believes that craigslist gives users a place to communicate and help one another, fostering community spirit. The site's emphasis on community reflects its founder's and CEO's values -- Craig Newmark and Jim Buckmaster try to avoid commercialism and corporate culture in their company [source: craigslist.org].

Craigslist communities appeal to a broad range of users. The simple, organized layout and helpful search engine makes navigation easy. Craigslist members range from teenagers to senior citizens. They post on the forums, shop online, trade tips and make new friends. While the site itself may not be the most visually interesting Internet destination, there's no denying its effectiveness. Users often report that it's easy to find what they are searching for within a few minutes of logging on to the site.

In the next section, we'll examine how the corporate structure at craigslist sets the tone for the entire site.