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The glory of Craigslist is “its size and its price,” notes writer Gary Wolf in a provocative dissection of the site in the September edition of Wired. But  “Craigslist is one of the strangest monopolies in history, where customers are locked in by fees set at zero and where the ambiance of neglect is not a way to extract more profit but the expression of a worldview.”

Wolf, unable to get much out of CEO Buckmaster and founder Craig Newmark in terms of their business vision, a typical experience, is especially frustrated by the site’s primitive technology. “It is the most important community site going and yet the most underdeveloped,” he writes. “Think of any Web feature that has become popular in the past 10 years. Chances are Craigslist has considered it and rejected it.”

Sometimes, however, Craigslist’s primitiveness just works. The simplistic site, for instance, makes for a natural, fast loading mobile app. Whether or not you like the “people power” politics of the site’s leaders, which excludes all marketers from the table, Wolf concludes that the site just doesn’t have to be so bad.

He talks to several top designers, who all are quick to acknowledge  that the site does its job, and then some. But it could be easily improved. Remodeling ideas would highlight search, line up columns, and recognize visited links. Open up the gates, Mr. Buckmaster!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. In the same magazine, there was a great article about how sometimes you do not need fancy new products or technology if something works good enough. Craigslist works good enough and why change for change sake.

  2. Designer Todd Toler has a great “counter” to Wired’s negative take on Craig….

    The portrayal (in the article) of CL’s leadership as Internet Neanderthals is well done but seems to undersell the genius behind the craigslist “anti-brand.” The urge to redesign misses the point.

  3. Yesterday, Craigslist added 140 cities. Here is the news From The NY Times:

    On Thursday, the San Francisco company quietly added new sites for 140 cities, a 25 percent increase, bringing its global directory to 690 cities over all. The additions include 87 cities in the United States, eight in Canada and 45 outside North America. Among the targeted areas in the United States are dozens of small to midsize cities like Susanville, Calif. (population 18,000), Oneonta, N.Y. (13,000), and the counties of Okaloosa and Walton, Fla., (a combined 229,000.)

    If that expansion sounds minor, consider that Craigslist also added new sites for international cities like Lucknow, India (population 2.5 million), Shenzen, China (14 million), and New Castle, Australia, (280,000). Most of the sites are in English only.

  4. I imagine it bothers some people that something so primitive can be so effective.

  5. The real tragedy happened to CL is the tragedy of the common people. Everyone that has experience to use it for anything in the last few years knows that the spammers, scammers have no existence. This article was the biggest piece of Fail I’ve read in a long while. I’m quoting this from memory, but my favorite quote was something along the lines of: “What kind of business isn’t interested in maximizing profits?”

  6. I applaud Gary Wolf and Wired for the well-researched article on the anomalous characters and odd decisions going on behind the scenes at Craigslist. For a business with this much traffic and this much income, the problems its users encounter day after day, post after post, are really beyond comprehension. They make enough money to fix this stuff, folks – and they refuse to do it!

    And that’s not all they refuse to fix. Over the last few years, newspapers and television news stories across the country have been reporting stories about victims – from theft to rape to murder – whose only mistake was responding to a Craigslist ad. Note to Craig: telling us that “most people are good,” is not a sufficient answer! For years, law enforcement agencies have been fighting with Craigslist to clean up the obvious illegal activities on the site – and Craigslist has repeatedly balked or stalled.

    The word is spreading that Craigslist is a dangerous place to buy, sell, or look for a date. This is sad state of affairs in an era when technologies exist to ferret out much of the illegal activity, and good old fashioned monitoring can clean up much of the rest – and yet Craigslist resorts to a flag system that, as your article points out, benefits troublemakers as readily as legitimate users. Yes, the criminals are in the minority; I’ll give Craig and Buckmaster that. But the problem is this: more than on any other site I’ve ever seen (and I work in this industry), criminals flock to Craigslist.

    Buckmaster’s analogy to GM seems an effort to confuse the issue. Autos come with safety ratings, and manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure their cars’ safety ratings – because people’s lives are at stake. And that’s just the point. Craigslist users have every right to expect that their safety come before some abstract concept of “democracy.”

    This is probably the most important difference between Craigslist and the community classifieds site I operate. At, we monitor our community classifieds to make every experience as safe and enjoyable as possible.

    We pay attention to our users, and we are constantly improving our technologies and systems. Given how hard we work at this, it’s hard to watch the arrogance and nonsense that go on at Craigslist. When users run into problems there, they get a haiku? Give me a break! Why would anyone intentionally create a system where users’ concerns are mocked rather than addressed?

    People aren’t fools: as long as Craigslist refuses to evolve, the site will increasingly be defined by bugs, scams and illegal activities – risks and frustrations that fewer and fewer users will be willing to put up with. Please let your readers know that there are alternatives to Craigslist – including ours. I welcome every Craigslist user to surf on over to Geebo where we work hard to make yours a safe, easy, enjoyable and successful community classifieds experience.

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