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By Mimi Rohr/ Gamma
While Craig's List is used by million of people worldwide to post free classified ads online, only a few actually know that there is a real Craig behind the list.

Fifty-three year old Craig Newmark, a veteran computer programmer rose from the ranks with what started as "a hobby." In 1995, then an employee of the financial brokerage giant, Charles Schwab, when he began posting "cool events" for his friends. The friends started passing around the information, then people started making suggesting events and the site blossomed into what we now know as craigslist.org.

By the end of 1997 Newmark had reached one million page views per month. Most major cities in the United States are listed as well several ones in Canada, Europe, Asia and even Africa "I realized something was going on. I believed it in my head, but not my gut." In 1998, Newmark briefly experimented with having volunteers help him run the site. It didn’t work out, and "I knew I had to get serious."

In 1999 Newmark incorporated Craigslist as a non-profit organization and hired staff. After making a few hiring mistakes, Newmark learned to trust his instincts and hired CEO Jim Buckmaster in 2000. Today Newmark focuses on customer service, the hallmark of Craigslist.

Today the list is one of the world’s largest sources of online classified ads, boasting 4 billion viewers a month and posts 8 million classified ads a month in 200 cities in 35 countries around the world. The company’s sole revenue is generated by fees paid by those posting jobs in the cities of San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. Soon New York realtors may have to pay to post their listings.

Unaffected by his newfound fame, Newmark slipped into a Cole Valley café seemingly undetected. "I’m a nerd," confessed Newmark. The classic American nerd is a scientific and/or technologically inclined individual, sporting un-stylish clothes, glasses held together with tape, the plastic pocket protector in his breast pocket jammed with pens, and marginal social skills. I was all those things in high school," admits Newmark, who today wears stylish eyewear and clothing belie his nerd status. Newmark has made it chic to be a nerd. "The core (the nerd core) is still the same," he insists.

"Homer Simpson (the sometimes ironic adult cartoon character) is my role model," said Newmark, who also draws inspiration from such authors as – his high school favorite -Ayn Rand and later Victor Hugo.

Despite the enticing offers that could be financially lucrative for Newmark, he has repeatedly refused offers to put banner ads and pop-up ads on the Craigslist web site. "I have enough," said Newmark. It goes back to values."

Ebay, the on-line auction site - was able to acquire a 25% stake in the company when a former Craigslist employee sold his shares.

Today, you can find an apartment, a job and a date for Saturday night, or even complain about last weekends date all in one place. San Francisco computer programmer Bob Higbie said, "I use only Craigslist for job posting, because I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and it’s the only thing anybody looks at."

Craigslist has been accused for plummeting newspaper revenues due to the loss in classified ad revenue. It has cost newspapers in the San Francisco Bay area $50 million to $65 million in employment advertising revenue, according to Classified Intelligence LLC, a consulting firm for the Classified Advertising Industry. But Newmark, after consulting industry analysts "feels the affect (the site has had) on newspapers is exaggerated."

At Newmark’s insistence, Craiglist has remained what it was years ago. The list has "made it easier for people to address their basic needs...It’s given a voice to people that haven’t had one," explained Newmark. "The site is based on a culture of trust."

Craig’s list is a grass-roots movement. Craig is in constant contact with his users, counting on them to help identify inappropriate postings and those that are not playing by the rules. Newmark believes "people everywhere want to do the right thing. People want to help each other out...Maybe we just need rule by Craigslist. Everyone gets along and plays fair."
Mimi Rohr © 2006