The Man and Mission Behind Craigslist

ByABC News
February 22, 2006, 1:33 PM

Feb. 22, 2006 — -- Type in or, and you open a window to a world of opportunities -- job postings, ad listings, apartment vacancies, social events, you name it.

"I placed the ad on Craigslist to free up some space in my garage by getting rid of a couple of my wife's six strollers," said one man interviewed for the cult film "24 Hours on Craigslist."

"I've used it for job postings; I've used it for finding an apartment," said one woman.

What was one of the Web's best-kept secrets is not a secret anymore. Founded in 1995 by Craig Newmark and based in San Francisco, Craigslist began as a roundup of local events but is now considered one of the top 10 Web sites in the world. It carries listings in more than 20 countries, 115 cities in all 50 states and gets approximately 10 million visitors a month.

"I started a simple list of what I thought were cool events, arts and technology stuff," said Newmark.

Newmark said he didn't initially intend to call his Web site "Craigslist" but rather "SF Events." But a friend of his intervened.

"He says, 'Hey, we already [informally] call it Craigslist. Keep calling it that. It will signify that it is personal and quirky,'" Newmark said.

Newmark tries to keep his life simple. Every morning he begins his day by tending to customer complaints. But he also has to keep an eye out for Craiglist users running scams and for rude customers.

But overall, Newmark said, his customers are honest.

"The really big lesson that I have learned from doing Craigslist customer service full time, you know, interacting with a couple of hundred people a week or so is that people are overwhelmingly good and trustworthy," he said.

Newmark has, however, encountered a few scams, ads for prostitution rings -- even one in which a San Francisco woman allegedly offered up her 4-year-old daughter for sex. Newmark said other users or his staff often flag the questionable listings, and he has never hesitated to cooperate with authorities.