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The Internet The Almighty Buck Businesses

How Craigslist is Keeping up Internet Ideals 173

Posted by Zonk
from the fight-the-good-fight dept.
prostoalex writes "CBS MarketWatch discusses whether Craig Newmark and CraigsList.org are missing out by not 'monetizing' their traffic or selling out to large corporations. CraigsList is currently #7 e-commerce site on the Internet with 13M unique visitors monthly, and only charges for real estate listings by professional brokers. No word on whether that income is enough to pay 24 salaries and data center fees for hosting a major Internet site." From the article: "Their noble stance gives entrepreneurs from San Francisco a great name. Despite the many unfortunate examples of greed, Internet entrepreneurs aren't all about getting rich quick and cashing out. At an entrepreneur's roots is a vision to provide a service that helps alleviate a pain point. The money thing always muddied the waters down the road. The attitude at Craigslist is a nice reminder of how entrepreneurs' ideals can still remain intact, no matter how odd they may seem in a world that worships money."
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How Craigslist is Keeping up Internet Ideals

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  • by Toby The Economist (811138) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:06PM (#17208970)
    > "whether Craig Newmark and CraigsList.org are missing out"

    Of course they're missing out on making tons of money.

    However, whether they're missing out in a sense which matters to them personally, presumably not, since they've obviously chosen to do what they wish to do; so MarketWatch is basically contemplating its own navel.

    > No word on whether that income is enough to pay 24 salaries and data center fees for
    > hosting a major Internet site.

    Apparently it must be, or they wouldn't still have jobs and the sites would have closed down.
    • by z-kungfu (255628) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:08PM (#17209022)
      Some people paid attention during the dot.com bubble, learned a few things and are happy to just do what they want to do.... I dig that attitude.
      • by maxume (22995) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @01:33PM (#17210484)
        They realized that filthy rich was ok and that they didn't need to go for filthy, filthy, filthy stinking rich?
        • by TheLink (130905)
          Seems lots of people don't know the difference between "Serving and Worshipping Money" and having Money serve them.

          Maybe many of the 24 or so craiglist bunch know the difference.

          There are people who end up super rich because what they like is making yet more money.
          But there are also people who end up super rich just by doing what they like even if it's not about making more money.

          If you like to make people happy and they give you lots of money in return, and most other people don't mind and won't mind, exce
        • by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @07:02PM (#17215696) Homepage
          Sorry, but more money in the hands of good people is a good thing. Think about Buffet and Gates. Those guys are putting together a charity which may have the ability to literally wipe contagious disease from the face of the planet*. If they had followed the business philosophy of Craig, well, there would be a whole lot more dead kids out there.

          It's like my friend in dental school. She says she doesn't want to make a lot of money, she wants to help people. So when she graduates, she's going to spend a year in south America building houses for poor people. I told her that if she really wanted to help, she would work in the US and use half her salary to hire a dozen workers in her place to work in her place and build many more houses than she could ever build.

          *imagine vaccinating everyone on the planet for all diseases which require human hosts at the same time. Craig would be a better man if he capitalized and chipped in to that fund.
          • by JPriest (547211)
            Welfare does not create independence, it creates welfare dependency. Maybe by not charging for listings on the site he is doing more for the poor than if he locked them out of the site and gave some of the proceeds to some organization in hopes they do good things with it.

            As an example giving food to Somalia helps them eat, but it also drives local farmers out of business ensuring aid dependency will continue. In my opinion the guy who won a Nobel peace prize recently because realized that these people c

            • Who said anything about welfare? You just wanted to gripe or something? I think everyone has heard the parable you're going after;

              "Give a man a fire, and you keep him warm for the night. Set a man on fire, and you keep him warm for the rest of his life."

              I think Gates is focusing on disease, not on corn-dumping. Your point about donating for economic development being more important than donating for long-term food aid is understood most well-informed people. But we are talking about vaccinating people for d
          • by orasio (188021)

            It's like my friend in dental school. She says she doesn't want to make a lot of money, she wants to help people. So when she graduates, she's going to spend a year in south America building houses for poor people. I told her that if she really wanted to help, she would work in the US and use half her salary to hire a dozen workers in her place to work in her place and build many more houses than she could ever build.

            I live in Uruguay, and they do that here, "un techo por Uruguay". They are building wooden houses (we use brick houses here, because of the climate) for the poor. The only sensible thing would be to make a fund, to help people buy materials, and give them some free help in the design of the houses. Instead of that, they are providing free labor (also known as "dumping") in a country where there are lots of good, cheap, unemployed construction workers, and building houses hat do not adapt to our reality or

      • by earnest murderer (888716) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @01:52PM (#17210792)
        I think it's worth mentioning as well that Craig et. al. make mountains of money. Just not as much as they could if they exploited their product to the hilt. Part of why they got where they are is by not doing those things.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Gregory Cox (997625)
      (I couldn't get the page from the link above. This link [marketwatch.com] works for me.)

      Of course they're missing out on making tons of money.

      Are they really? I think they realise that charging for more types of ads, or some other money-making tactic, makes their service less attractive, and makes it that much easier for someone else to come from nowhere and overtake them.

      It's not too obvious what they'd do, either - perhaps their own Google-style "sponsored" ads (maybe letting you pay to get your ad show more prominently).

      • by Spazmania (174582)
        they have enough business sense to become the most popular site in their market

        It takes no particular talent to sell a dollar for 50 cents.
        • I don't think so. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Kadin2048 (468275) <[slashdot.kadin] [at] [xoxy.net]> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:39PM (#17209572) Homepage Journal
          It takes no particular talent to sell a dollar for 50 cents.

          If what they've done is so easy, why doesn't someone else just create a different but similarly-oriented site, monetize it, and laugh all the way to the bank?

          They're providing a service that people want, and are apparently making ends meet while they do it. That's hardly "selling a dollar for 50 cents." Many sites can't even manage to do that.

          What MarketWatch is arguing, is that perhaps they could make even more money than they're doing. Perhaps they could. But perhaps they'd also drive away some of their audience and leave themselves open to the 'next' Craigslist.

          Just because they're not making risky business decisions doesn't make them fools; I thought anyone who'd survived the dot-com burst would realize that maybe a conservative stance is underrated when it comes to building a brand and business.
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:34PM (#17209482) Homepage

      You know, I've worked for a small start-up kind of business that was "missing out" on "tons of money". Basically, the owners could have sold it to a much larger company, which then would have run the company into the ground. Or, they could have adopted the same practices that their competitors were using, and made a lot more money over the short term.

      However, what kept the company working the way it did, what kept their customers happy, had always been the practices that cost them a bit more or didn't make as much money in the short term. What made it a good company was that it was a small company, without a lot of red tape or bureaucracy. The practices that made the owners, employees, and customers like the company were exactly the practices that a large company or a company driven by short-term profits would not do. In short, they could have sold out at any time, and become not better than their competition for the sake of short-term gains, but chose not to because they wanted to do a good job.

      I wish more companies worked like that.

      • by Daetrin (576516) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @01:14PM (#17210154)
        The practices that made the owners, employees, and customers like the company were exactly the practices that a large company or a company driven by short-term profits would not do. In short, they could have sold out at any time, and become not better than their competition for the sake of short-term gains, but chose not to because they wanted to do a good job.

        I just finished re-reading "The Door Into Summer" by Robert Heinlein and i'm reminded of the part where the main character's business partners are trying to force him out of so they can sell the company to a big corporation. He says something along the lines of "You can't use more than one swimming pool or more than one yacht at a time, and you'll have both in another year with the way we're doing business now so why should we sell out to another company and put them in charge?" But his partners are intent on having more money and power than they can actually use, just for the sake of money and power.

        It seems like all the old desires to build empires out of countries has changed with the times and been applied to the business world. I wonder if society as a whole will ever look back at the present and think "why did they ever waste so much time and happiness in pursuit of something like that?"

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @01:23PM (#17210298)
        Money is important. You need it to buy food, shelter, medicine, providence for your family (if you have one) and so on.

        The economy moves rapidly. It is not always obvious where your money will be coming from ten years down the road (when your skill set has been made obsolete or your industry has been outsourced or what-have-you). Having a fat pile of money ensures that your needs will still be met.

        So I don't know that it is fair to say that our society "worships" money. The fact is we need it, so we put a lot of effort into getting it. That's just the way it is.

        So, while the business of making a lot of money quickly may seem greedy, we must admit that there are very compelling economic (and even personal) motivations for attempting to do this. The sooner you have a large nestegg, the sooner you can rest easy in the face of an unpredictable future.

        Resisting this urge, and instead accepting a slower income (and along with it the risk of running out of money in the future), for the benefit of others, is noble. Does that make a failure to do this evil? Are there two polar extremes with no middle ground?

        IMO, providing for your needs, now and in the future, is not greed so much as self-interest. This is the primary motivator behind a capatilist society, which is the one in which we live. I won't deny the nobility of self-sacrifice, nor will I deny that there is a point at which accumulation stops being self-interest and transforms into greed. However, I will also deny that self-interest is the same as "worshipping money" or that trying to make money quickly is greedy or evil.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by jo42 (227475)
          Now replace "money" with "cocaine".
        • It's not a matter of nobility and self-sacrifice, but rather an issue of wanting to build something instead of tearing it apart. Your notion of "self-interest", i.e. desire for money, does not necessarily need to be the primary motivator in order to be a capitalist society. Capitalism is an economic system in which the government does not attempt to control industry. The intent is to turn natural greed, which occurs anyway, into a beneficial impulse. However, there's nothing contrary to capitalism when

    • Of course they're missing out on making tons of money.

      They make millions of dollars a year. Even while EBay hinders them in Europe to promote their own offering (EBay owns 30% of craigslist). I work with Craig's biggest competitor outside the US, who has been approached by EBay. So we have some idea how much Craig can sell out for. But why should he? His growth is still spectacular and he's bringing in millions. If you don't think a multi-million dollar private business with only 24 employees is consi
      • Even while EBay hinders them in Europe to promote their own offering (EBay owns 30% of craigslist).

        I'm confused. eBay doesn't own a controlling interest in Craigslist; they're only 25 or 30% at most, purchased from a departing executive. That doesn't give them much of a say in operations. How is Craigslist being hindered? They seem to be active in quite a few European cities.

        I'd imagine that it might be tough to gain traction in a foreign market, since the only way I've ever heard of CL 'advertising' was by
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by truthsearch (249536)
          For some reason, craigslist won't run their Paris site in French (at least the last time I checked earlier this year). So only expats use it. Meanwhile Kajiji, created by Ebay after a certain similar web site refused to sell out to them, is doing reasonably well because they translate for every country and consider cultural differences (color choices, images, etc.).

          I don't know how they did it, but when ebay wanted a more monetized site, they seemed to prevent craigslist from using domestic languages and
    • It's not that MarketWatch is contemplating their own navel: it's that they're speaking to their audience. Their audience is heavily invested in a set of business practices in which short-term profit is the definition of success. Any business practice that operates outside that definition cannot, in their minds, be a success, of course, so they question it. The underlying idea -- which they share with any evangelical group -- is that you must try to convince people that what you're doing is the only good
    • by rucs_hack (784150)
      When done properly, business should treat money as a commodity, not an end. If making money is the sole aim of a business, it ends up sucking to go to work. If on the other hand you *want* to do it, and make money in reasonable quantities, long term happiness and customer satisfaction are easily achieved.

      There's nothing like asking for help regarding a business from someone who actually wants, really wants, to solve your problem, and isn't just there for the paycheck.
    • by MistChild (25083)
      I though Ebay bought a chunk of Craigslist. I expect any funds they gave would pay for 24 people for a while.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by YankeeInExile (577704)
        Not quite. eBay bought a chunk of craigslist from one of the original partners -- I don't think CL the corporate entity got anything out of the deail.
  • by YankeeInExile (577704) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:11PM (#17209080) Homepage Journal
    Real estate is not the only paid category. Jobs postings in the largest markets are also revenue producers. (Although at $25 it can't be beat)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by lottameez (816335)
      Although at $25 it can't be beat

      Yes and no. Since your ads age very quickly, you have to refresh them more often than other online ad venues (dice/monster/etc). Still a good deal tho.
  • Large Corporations? (Score:4, Informative)

    by thesolo (131008) <slap@fighttheriaa.org> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:13PM (#17209098) Homepage
    Um, eBay owns 25% of them [craigslist.org].
  • If they charged... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lectos (409804)
    If they charged, what would separate them from every other site out there that does the same thing? They have more of a place on the internet by doing what they are doing right now. If they charged, their niche would go away.
    • by Billosaur (927319) *

      If they charged, what would separate them from every other site out there that does the same thing? They have more of a place on the internet by doing what they are doing right now. If they charged, their niche would go away.

      When you think about CraigsList is the original successful social networking site. It allows people to exchange goods and services with people in their general area or anywhere, and isn't cluttered up with useless nonsense or ads. It may not have all the "functionality" of someplace but it doesn't need to. It's more a small town, as opposed to a big city.

      • by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:48PM (#17209712)
        When you think about CraigsList is the original successful social networking site.

        It and livejournal with its communities are basically USENET for the 21st century. Not that USENET is dead, BTW, but they're a more user-friendly replacement.

        -b.

  • by ravee (201020) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:15PM (#17209160) Homepage Journal
    Craiglist is a wonderful site which is put to use and also sometimes misused by the people using its services. But one is bound to believe that the good it provides far outweighs the bad things. I know atleast one guy who emigrated to USA who has used craiglist to find better accomodation. Having read the story, I feel that the two owners running craiglist are true philanthropists.
    • Cringely says... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:50PM (#17209736)
      Robert X. Cringely says they are almost singlehandedly responsible for the death of the major newspapers. His point is that the highest margin activity at news papers is the classified ads. Even the circulation department is a net loss. And you can't compete with Free.


      Obviously the question arrises as to whether that's just the natural course of evolution and it's time for the dinosoaurs for find a new bussiness model. That's too glib a response for two reasons. First, it's a matter of huge consequence to the nation and to democracy in general to have a plethora of news sources that get their profits from the masses directly so they are not beholden to a few key advertisers. Second, craig's list is a temprary anamoly. It might be said to be a loss leader for whatever is going to replace it. But someday it's going to die or get forced out of bussiness. For example, as has been widely predicted when net neutrality goes away people running big sites are going to have to start paying the ISPs for access to their customers. Or maybe Craig's list will go public or it's owners finally decide to cash in on the latent ten billion dollar value they have.

      In any case we won't have free classified ads forever. But in the mean time we might loose all the newspapers.

      I'm not happy with that trade. Free does not always mean the results are good. It's like someone was giving you free internet explorers for a while and you nearly lost netscape.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Moofie (22272)
        "Robert X. Cringely says they are almost singlehandedly responsible for the death of the major newspapers."

        If the only valuable thing in newspapers is the classifieds, then there's no reason for them to exist, is there?
      • by Dun Malg (230075) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:38PM (#17214236) Homepage

        Robert X. Cringely says they are almost singlehandedly responsible for the death of the major newspapers. His point is that the highest margin activity at news papers is the classified ads. Even the circulation department is a net loss. And you can't compete with Free.
        There is one giant, glaringly obvious flaw in this whole line of reasoning. It assumes nothing has arisen to replace that leftover from the 18th century, the printed newpaper. You need to ask why craigslist has been able to undercut newspapers so effectively. Has some new, less expensive form of communication arisen? Something that perhaps doesn't rely on physically moving a massive amount of rolled wood pulp around every day? I quote Dr Egon Spengler [imdb.com]: "Print is dead."
        • by boingo82 (932244)
          It's not circulation that is most expensive at newspapers. It is staffing. The subscription price neatly covers the paper, ink, and distribution, but it is the paid PRINT advertising which pays the reporters, editors, etc.
      • by geekoid (135745)
        More news sources is better. It will always be better.

        Craigs list is profitable, so why exactly would they go away?

        If they did, others wuold appear. It's not that difficult to do.

        "First, it's a matter of huge consequence to the nation and to democracy in general to have a plethora of news sources that get their profits from the masses directly so they are not beholden to a few key advertisers."

        HAHAHAHahahaha... wait, let me catch my breath... whew..ok.

        Are you seriously saying*gigglesnort* that newspapers ar
    • Flagging = Good (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Zorandler (931867)
      On the other hand...I find that the community is _very_ fast with flagging and in sections like for sale and jobs,

      you will find that a spam, junk or get rich quick scheme gets flagged quickly and removed.

      The flagging feature is one of the best parts of Craigslist IMHO.

  • by Monoman (8745) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:18PM (#17209196) Homepage
    When I want to sell something I usually choose Craig's List over eBay. It is free, local (no need to ship), and the entire process is usually quicker.
    • by mgblst (80109)
      The UK version of craigslist is the gumtree [gumtree.com], which was originally setup for aussies in the UK, but is now a very popular site. It doesn't charge either (except maybe in London for certain things), and is a great source to buy and sell goods.

      But watch out for the scammers.
      • by Monoman (8745)
        Very true. Most times I place an ad on CL the first one or two replies are very generic asking for more information.

        I'm sure they are spammers/scammers looking to for a valid email address.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:22PM (#17209272)
    These guys are "greedy capitalists." They charge for some things. I'm sure they pay their bills and provide homes and nice things for their families. They are just choosing an approach that maximizes the long-term prospects for their company. Many choose to go for short-term gains and suffer in the long run, but both approaches involve something being sold, something being bought, and some sort of filthy currency.

    I see these sort of ideas come out of the San Francisco circle jerk of media many times. Capitalism is bad except for OUR capitalists, which are good. In the long run, this approach may make these guys even more greedy over the years compared to all the prospectors who try the hit-and-run approach, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, all this economic navel gazing is only possible in rich capitalist countries where we have more time for self-righteousness because we don't have to spend so much time just getting enough food to live.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vertinox (846076)
      In fact, all this economic navel gazing is only possible in rich capitalist countries where we have more time for self-righteousness because we don't have to spend so much time just getting enough food to live.

      For some reason I think you are being sarcastic, but at the same time I can't really see people in Somalia or Sudan having much ado about navel gazing either.
  • Attributing "money is evil" attitudes to the good people at Craiglist is unjustified. They are probably still expanding their classified ad network, with the aim of reaching a certain level of market penetration before monetizing it further. Or, before accepting buy-out offers that are based on the ever-growing potential that the site has for monetization.
  • Great guys (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Krommenaas (726204) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:28PM (#17209364) Homepage
    About a year ago I was working at a big European bookmaker and our MySQL setup had gone as far as we could push it. We wanted to hear from another big MySQL user so our CTO mailed Craigslist, and to our pleasant surprise we soon got a very long, friendly and helpful explanation about their setup. I don't need to say how rare that is in business. Very likable company indeed.
    • by Moofie (22272)
      Quick question...

      Does "bookmaker" mean the same thing in Europe that it does in America? Do you manufacture reading materials, or place bets on sporting events?
  • by truthsearch (249536) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:29PM (#17209386) Homepage Journal
    no matter how odd they may seem in a world that worships money

    Well obviously if there are people like Craig Newmark, then the whole world doesn't worship money. I don't like this blanket statement because it assumes an extreme view while the very article it's attached to shows the opposite. In fact, statements like that are one of the main reasons so many people dislike and distrust mainstream media.

    Thanks, Craig, for proving the world doesn't "worship money." I've met too many web site owners that did sell out. I'm on your side.
    • Okay, would in a world where money is widely worshipped meet your needs?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Clever7Devil (985356)
      My question is: What's so evil about making profit out of your hard work?

      I assume that most of us aren't independently wealthy. Even if you are, that money didn't just fall out of the sky. I'd hope that most of us aren't leeching off of the state. Unless you're at a public internet terminal right now, I shudder to think my tax dollars are paying for your computer and broadband connection.

      Craigslist is a wonderful service, and god knows I'm a supporter of F/OSS-esque activities; however, this world runs on t
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by truthsearch (249536)
        There's a big difference between making money and "worshiping" it. Profit isn't evil. But gluttony is.
  • by urdine (775754) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:29PM (#17209388)
    It's interesting to think about the economic implications of Craigslist - certainly, not slapping ads everywhere and charging for all sorts of posts has allowed the site to grow to its huge size, but on the other hand, it has all but killed newspapers' cash cow, the classifieds. You can say, "who cares, newspapers are dying anyway," but the resources newspapers have - trained journalists, editors, the whole damn infrastructure - is quite valuable to our society as a whole. I don't really think Craigslist is going to kill the whole industry, but it's certainly had a big effect on how newspapers will move into the 21st century.

    That being said, this decision on Craigslist's part to not monetize the site fully is something like "accelerated capitalism". In other words, they're skipping that whole phase where they maximize their size and influence to make lots of money until a competitor comes in to undercut them - because you pretty much CAN'T undercut them, they're undercutting themselves to achieve scale. Sites like Youtube are doing this too - the technology of everything has grown faster than the market can respond.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kadin2048 (468275)
      The newspapers could have beaten Craigslist at their own game. They just never rose to the challenge.

      I know that particularly among the over-40 set, the brand name of the local newspaper is a lot more valuable than "Craigslist" ("Who is 'Craig' and why does he have a 'list'?"). But their online classified site is atrocious. Seriously, it makes me want to just stab my eyes out. Up until fairly recently, it wasn't even searchable, and the information in each ad was the same paltry words as in the print versio
    • It's kind of an interesting example of a theoretical economic model happening in reality.

      One of the models is a natural monopoly with no monopoly pricing power. This normally doesn't happen in reality, but Craigslist MIGHT be the perfect example of it.

      It assumes that because of economies of scale (where the point of diminishing returns from increasing marginal costs exists on the curve outside of full market... essentially, fixed costs get spread out, but we assume that marginal costs decrease for a point,
      • by curunir (98273) *
        Not that everything you've said isn't quite interesting (on the contrary, I found it quite interesting), but it's predicated on the notion that the most likely path to monetization of CL's popularity is to increase prices to "collect monopoly rents." However the path to increased profits that's been suggested most often is for CL to add AdSense to some or all of their pages. By some estimates, this could be as much as $500m/year that they'd take in from simply showing text ads. It's arguable whether the
    • I don't really think Craigslist is going to kill the whole industry, but it's certainly had a big effect on how newspapers will move into the 21st century.

      And the newspapers have no one to blame for this but themselves. All Craig & co. did was identify a service that the newspaper classifieds industry was doing a poor job providing, and did it better.

      Imagine if the newspaper companies had embraced the Internet and started offering free online classified ads ten years ago. There never would have been a
    • by curunir (98273) * on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:52PM (#17212548) Homepage Journal
      ...but on the other hand, it has all but killed newspapers' cash cow, the classifieds. You can say, "who cares, newspapers are dying anyway," but the resources newspapers have - trained journalists, editors, the whole damn infrastructure - is quite valuable to our society as a whole.
      I think there's a flaw in this logic. It only considers the entity who is receiving less money (newspapers) and the entity that is receiving very little money (Craigslist). It doesn't consider the true beneficiary of the Craigslist services, the people saving money on the service. That money doesn't just vanish into thin air, it gets spent in other ways or, in seemingly rare cases, saved. The positive effect of newspapers needs to be balanced against the positive effect that this money will create when spent in other ways.
  • Internet Ideal (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hijacked Public (999535) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:29PM (#17209392)
    I thought the internet ideal was that there were no ideals? Or at least none anyone was obligated to follow.


    While people often make attempts to prevert the internet into what they want it to be, a place to advertise, a place to argue, to publish information about yourself that no one wants to read, it continues to resist shoves in any particular direction. When something new is added the old stuff is not displaced. YouTube can make thousands of videos available and everyone can get really excited about the coming Web 2.0 apocalypse, but all the old stuff is still right where it was and just as useful.

    If Craigslist wants to give stuff away, they can. If someone wants to charge for the exact same service, they can. If a guy can convince a VC to give him a couple of hundred million dollars to build a web site that tries to ship 50 lb bags of dog food across the country, and he has a time machine to take him back to the early 90s, he can.

  • by DumbSwede (521261) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:30PM (#17209396) Journal
    Is it just me, or is it annoying that neither the original news article nor the slashdot summary have a link to Craigs List, the website under discussion?

    Granted this one is an easy one to find, but in general, why are News sites so stingy with links to what they are reporting on.
    Not providing pictures of some marvelous device they are reporting on is also a major gripe

    BTW
    Craig's List [craigslist.org]
  • by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:30PM (#17209402) Homepage
    If the did try to monetize it, they would find that many of their users would disappear.


    Personally, I just see Craiglist as a web emulation of Usenet, with a few enhancements like the ability to easily include pictures, edit your posts (cancels haven't worked on Usenet in a long time,) flag offensive posts, a web interface (which makes it easier to use for the non-technically inclined) and management that's all together in one place so things can be changed (for good or bad) a lot quicker and easier than they can on Usenet.

    They did a pretty good job with it, and did a really good job with only trying to charge the people who were really willing to pay -- which brought in enough money to pay for things (I assume) but not to alienate their users. If craiglist were to try and require that everybody have accounts and charge for them, most of their users would just leave, and somebody else would probably re-implement craiglist somewhere else.

    In any event, Craiglist gives up a lot of the features of Usenet, but for the most part these are features that the users have decided that they don't need -- or at least they seem to have decided that with their feet, because they're using Craiglist rather than Usenet. (Perhaps they're not even aware of Usenet, or their ISP doesn't offer a news server because it thinks if it does, it has to offer alt.binaries.* But that's another matter entirely ...)

    • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
      Personally, I just see Craiglist as a web emulation of Usenet, with a few enhancements like the ability to easily include pictures, edit your posts (cancels haven't worked on Usenet in a long time,) flag offensive posts, a web interface (which makes it easier to use for the non-technically inclined) and management that's all together in one place so things can be changed (for good or bad) a lot quicker and easier than they can on Usenet.

      The only problem with CL is that it's too regionalized. There are no

  • Look, anytime they want, they can cash in for billions. It's not a flash-in-the-pan, so there's no hurry to do that.

    Yet once you have billions, your whole life changes. You have to consult security experts about where you - and your relatives - can travel without fear of kidnapping. Even your oldest, closest friends start hitting you up for investments.

    So Craig and crew have the best of both worlds: normal lives for now, with plenty of social standing, in a nice city - and billions available for their retir
  • And apparently lots of people like it too. It is a throwback to the internet that used-to-be.
  • I know slashdot's readership has a decidedly socalist leaning about many things, but what is wrong with people deciding to profit from what they have created? Why is foregoing said profit considered "noble"?
    • by YankeeInExile (577704) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:46PM (#17209674) Homepage Journal

      Nothing is wrong with greed. But, conversely, what's wrong with a little socialism?

      The attitude that emenates from CL staffers (and is reflected in their users) is: There are lots of places to get your greed on, let's have one that is more happy-hippy just-a-bunch-o-friends swap-n-shop shoot-the-shit kinda place.

      THAT, in my arrogant opinion, is why Craigslist has been so phenomenally successful. It is a pleasing balance between capitalism and social community

    • by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:52PM (#17209774)

      I know slashdot's readership has a decidedly socalist leaning about many things, but what is wrong with people deciding to profit from what they have created? Why is foregoing said profit considered "noble"?

      Nothing. It's not really profit that's the issue, it's mass-commercialization and expanding a site beyond the original scope, and the drive not to just make some money, but to make as much money as you possibly can.

      Those goals often times are in direct opposition to providing a usefull service to the community. There's nothing noble about not making money, or anything wrong with making money. There is something noble about putting your goals of service above the goals of profit. It doesn't mean that Craigslist can't make a profit, it just means you don't throw everything else away for a drive to make more and more money.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      If it makes you feel any better, look at it this way: cragslist generates more profit than probably 99.99% of the "profit-maximizing" websites out there. Or look at it this way, in the long run, how much wealth did Enron actually produce?
    • by QMO (836285)
      I don't know if you intended this, but it seems like you're confusing anti-socialism with anti-charity.

      In fact, one of the major aspects of socialism that I dislike is that it seem to me that it discourages charity.

      Me deciding to give my money to the poor is NOT the same as my community deciding to give my money to the poor.
      • by fotbr (855184)
        No, charity doesn't enter into this. My comments about a socialist leaning for a large portion of slashdot is based entirely on the number of "corporations are evil" "capitalism is evil" "they made money, they're evil" "anything not open source is evil because we can't share it" posts.

        What you do with your money is your choice, what I do with mine is my choice. No one should tell you, or me, or anyone else what they should do with their money, regardless of wether its for what they deem the "greater good"
    • by SamSim (630795)
      We (that is, my fellow slashdotters, not me personally) generally seem to be speaking from the perspective of CraigsList users. Apparently we enjoy the current level and quality of service provided by the site with its current focus on user satisfaction, and we fear that would diminish if the site were sold to a gigantic conglomerate which viewed user satisfaction as a byproduct of attaining their primary goal, which is money.
  • that the creators are smart enough to realize that there is no patent on online classifieds (and classifieds are simple enough that even the most braindead patent reviewer wouldn't ok one, and even if he did every newspaper in the world would fight to shut it down), and also there's a really small barrier to entry for online classifieds (just do text only and let people host their own images). So if craigslist does go down the path of the darkside, it'd take approx. nothing to get a free competitor up and r
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @12:42PM (#17209608) Homepage

    Forbes occasionally whines about Craigslist. [forbes.com] The real effect of Craigslist is not on the Internet. It's killing newspaper classified advertising, which used to be highly profitable.

  • From the summary: and only charges for real estate listings by professional brokers...

    That's incorrect. craigslist charges for real estate postings in the New York City area only. Additionally, they charge below-market rates for job postings in 3 markets (SF, LA and NY I believe).

    They are a profitable business. They have, however, chosen to throttle how much profit they suck from the thing.
  • by water-and-sewer (612923) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @01:10PM (#17210090) Homepage
    From the article:
    "Their noble stance gives entrepreneurs from San Francisco a great name. Despite the many unfortunate examples of greed, Internet entrepreneurs aren't all about getting rich quick and cashing out.

    Slashdot, on the other hand, sold out to OSDN, and has never been the same since. They could've done worse than OSDN as corporate overlords, but still, there are a lot of ex-dotters out there who miss the early days.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by waspleg (316038)
      i would call it putting their money wehre their mouths were.

      OSDN is based entirely on GPL'd code and sponsors those projects (afiak, i haven't bothered to research this at all but it certainly isn't M$ funding "surveys" to find in their favor)

      maybe they're trying to show that open/free software can make money aka support viable business and create a beachhead on the M$ front

      oh and i've been reading /. for about 10 years, i'm not sure if that qualifies me for your oldschool club or not but i certainly respec
  • I understand in a detached sense why folks at places like MarketWatch would ask such questions like "it's SO obvious that Company A could make so much more profit by doing these simple things" and never seem to get that there really are companies out there whose goals do not consist entirely of 1. PROFIT. The service, the product, the atmosphere are the important things here, and in the end, what exactly would they do with all the extra profit? It seems somewhat likely that Craig decided that he was jus
  • Greed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kbox (980541)
    I don't see how they can equate asking for payment for a service with greed.
    Surely greed is demanding everything for nothing as if website owners owe you something.

    It's nice that craigslist offers so many serives for free, but personally, I wouldn't think any less of him or his website if they were to charge or place ads on the site. He has bills to pay and mouths to feed just like the rest of us.
  • by ColonelPanic (138077) <pmk@@@google...com> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @02:06PM (#17211012)
    "13M unique visitors each month"

    I think that you mean "distinct" visitors here,
    meaning that some of them came more than once
    but all their visits counted as one.

    A "unique" visitor would either mean that there
    was just one visitor, or that each of those visitors
    was the only person like him or her. The first is
    not the case, and the second is always true until
    we start cloning humans or something.

    Mathematically, if x and y are distinct, then
    they are not equal. If x is unique, it is distinct
    from all other objects. Generally, one says that
    x is unique after defining a set of objects that have
    some properties and then showing that the set contains
    exactly one member, namely x.

    Whenever you see the adjective "unique" applied to
    a set of objects, it's probably being misused.
  • Yes, they haven't sold out. But they're not making much money, either. Craiglist is not helping their users any by refusing to "sell out" even a little bit. Have you used Craigslist? It is a very basic site and it is often difficult to find the information you want. And, while Joel Spolsky feels that innovative web apps should be impossible to use [slashdot.org], the rest of us realize the value in spending a few $$$ to increase usability for thousands and thousands of users.

    Usually when something is an the extreme of a s
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekoid (135745)
      millions of users use it just fine, maybe it's you?

      Craigslist is a great interface. Easy to use for anybody regardless of computer experience, OS or browser version.

      Craig, don't change a damn thing.

  • ...Craigslist is 'Keeping up' is the use of Times New Roman on the Internet.
  • Craigslist Europe. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by owlnation (858981) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:33PM (#17213176)
    I appreciate that Craigslist is popular and a success in the US.

    However, in Europe things are a little different. In most EU countries there isn't the volume of genuine users to make the flagging system work. Thus it's an ever decreasing spiral downward -> the site's full of spam, con artists, grey and black hats -> genuine advertisers don't post because of it -> no-one visits the site.

    Take for example Craigslist Denmark as typical. there's about 1,000 posts on the site. Less than 10% are genuine. Which in some ways is nice, because the spammers are spamming scammers and vice versa. If anyone from Craigslist is reading this, please take some time to be utterly ashamed at the state of most of your EU pages. You have failed.

    If you are looking for something illegal, Craigslist Europe IS the place to look - there's all sorts of stuff you can get listed there. Passports, fake degrees, protected species, illegal porn, drugs - prescription or otherwise, or alternatively you can get nicely screwed over by some Nigerians, a loan scam, a work from home scam, webcam and dating scams, etc etc etc etc.

    What you pretty much can't do is use Craigslist as it was intended.

    It's a gift to tabloid journalists and lawyers, and it's astounding that it hasn't got seriously bad press yet.
  • SPF (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yulek (202118) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @11:21PM (#17218322) Homepage Journal
    craiglist is one of the first major websites that not only implements but also enforces SPF.
  • Last time I looked entrepreneurship was about bringing an idea to life and making it a paying proposition. There is no requirement in the term to not get rich nor is making money "selling out" or one whit less idealistic. It is about making dreams become reality. Presumably the folks at Craig's List have a good reason for their business model and practices that allows them to get out of their work what they value. But they are not automatically any more (or any less for that matter) virtuous if they ma

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