from San Francisco Business Times, January 26, 2001
One on One with Craig Newmark
by Lizette Wilson
From an email list started to help friends unload old sofas and find apartments, to the most popular Bay Area community web site, craigslist.org has exploded to superlative proportions. It now gets about 20 million page views a month and has launched mini-communities in Boston, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Sydney and Melbourne in recent months. More are planned. San Francisco Business Times reporter Lizette Wilson goes one on one with founder Craig Newmark to find out future plans and whether he'll ever cash in on the eyeball power.
Q: Where's Craigslist headed?
A: We're expanding. The most recent expansion was in Sacramento. A lot of people were asking for it. We'd paused for a while to figure out what we'd done wrong.
Q: The site's grown and changed a lot. Could you tell me about the decision to hike the job posting fee from $45 to $75?
A: We wanted to pay the bills and expand. It's still free for nonprofits and we're working on the ability to do two-tier pricing for small businesses and big ones that can afford a higher price.
Q: That's good money, isn't it?
A: We have about 5,000 or 6,000 job postings a month. I think we have consistent page views of nearly 20 million a month. We've about doubled in a year. This is very good.
Q: That's a lot of eyeballs -- a lot of eyeballs you could make a profit on. Ever think about selling the site?
A: We have no intent of what people call monetizing this. There are other things we could do (to make money) like match jobs and resumes really well. We think we have a way now to match them that no one else is doing and then charge a modest fee.
Q: With all the added technologies that are coming into people's lives now do you see craigslist changing its format to take advantage of those new capabilities?
A: We have a need to modify some stuff so wireless devices can use our site more easily. The nice thing is that our site is so simple -- there's no big graphics or audio -- that it'll be easy to do. It's just our main (menu) page that needs to be changed for that.
Q: What about your personal wireless preferences? Is your phone web-enabled?
A: No, I decided that although I like my toys, the WAP stuff isn't ready for prime time. I like the idea of being able to do that, but I'm restraining my gadget lust.
Q: Who's a technologist you respect?
A: Linus Torvalds who did Linux, Brian Behlendorf who's the principal behind Apache, Tim Berners-Lee ... these all sound like fairly sane people, too. Some of the people that have done cool technology aren't entirely sane.
Q: What would you like to see happen in the Microsoft case?
A: I don't want to see them broken up. Then we'd have two less-restrained competitors. I'd like to see Microsoft fund a lot more Open Source efforts to come up with office products for Linux and then seriously support their products and address their quality problems.
Q: Who would you like to work with that you haven't?
A: There are some folks I'd love to work with who are getting into some of these newer technologies.
A: Some of the wireless stuff. The handheld device by Scout Electromedia... it got killed, but I thought it was very cool -- very well done. I like the RIM devices, too. And I still like Java.
Q: You worked at some big companies before doing craigslist full time. What did you learn?
A: I worked at IBM and then at Schwab. Schwab had some internal challenges.
Q: What do you mean by that?
A: There were all sorts of issues about the way technology should be done. At that point there were some engineers, including myself, going around the company showing the Internet -- evangelizing it.
Q: What was your job?
A: My primary effort on paper was to be a computer security architect. I was drawing up an all-over plan about systems which talk to each other and should be secure and setting up specific guidelines like firewalls. The Internet was just starting to be visible then. The legal staff was farsighted and asked me for advice on things like registering a lot of domain names. This was five years ago when I was making suggestions that may have even included things like davidpottruck.com.
Q: Why'd you leave Schwab?
A: There were different issues at Schwab and at that point people started telling me how much more my skills were worth outside of Schawb. I could take a generous buyout and I did.
Q: What did you do then?
A: My first very serious gig was at BofA. The major thing there in late 1995 was online banking. I wrote pretty much all test code because the programmers from Netscape who were engaged in IP app servers wanted nothing to do with writing test code. I'm quite grateful because I wrote one big chunk of test code in Java so I was way ahead of the curve with that language and it paid off pretty well. I wound up getting relatively well-paid consulting gigs because I knew Java that early.