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from St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 9, 2003

Making the 'A' list
By Eun-Kyung Kim

Finally, a list that doesn't care how safe or healthy St. Louis is.

Craigslist has come to town, and with it, the ability to find a job, an apartment, a pet or even new friends. Be it a bedroom set or a bedroom partner, the online bulletin board has been the place to find either one for the last several years in places like San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.

"Well, miracles of miracles . . . we are now a viable city. We gots us some craigslist!" one fan wrote on the "Rants & Raves" forum of the new St. Louis page.

Craigslist started in 1995 as an electronic mailing list from Craig Newmark, who wanted to tell friends about interesting events around San Francisco. Word about the free and anonymous virtual community spread, and in May 2000, Craigslist expanded to Boston, then Seattle, New York and Chicago. Today, there are 32 sites, with St. Louis and Tampa Bay becoming the newest additions last month.

Newmark has been resolute about keeping www.craigslist.org (or http://stlouis.craigslist.org) as commercial-free as possible. The bare-bones site lacks fancy graphics, banners or pop-up ads. The only charge for the site is to businesses that post job listings.

"It's a neat system because it's so pure," said Nancy Milton, a spokeswoman for the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission. Milton posted a classified seeking volunteers for her group after learning about Craigslist's St. Louis page. "It's a pure connection for people that's kind of fun."

Jim Buckmaster, the company's chief executive, said the St. Louis Craigslist went online Nov. 3 without any fanfare, as usual.

"We've never done any advertising or marketing. It's always been word of mouth," he said.

The St. Louis site had 4,000 users in its first month, but usage quadrupled last week, perhaps because of several mentions of it throughout the Internet.

The majority of Craigslist's users are in their early 20s to late 30s, Buckmaster estimates, based on the site's most popular pages.

While Craigslist has been traditionally used for classifieds or to find housing or jobs, it is an increasingly popular way to find dates. Users also can track down individuals who caught their eye on the street on the "missed connections" page.

Peruse the "best of" Craigslist to find posts seeking someone to teach a hamster how to sit, a guy in need of two women to make his girlfriend jealous and an online magazine looking for female models with big feet. One post came from a guy seeking somebody to take the CPA ethics test for him.

Craigslist also has its share of detractors. "I Hate Craig's List!" declared one user.

"First you enter CL looking for an apartment, or a couch, or cat ... and the next thing you know you're periodically posting personals ... and THEN you start referring to it as 'CL.'" she decries. "I swear Craig's List must make normally smart, sane, regular people slowly congeal into sappy, brain dead piles of drama."

Newmark welcomes it all. A self-proclaimed computer nerd, Newmark spends most of his time working on customer service, eliminating spam and deleting hateful or other inappropriate messages. More than 3 million people access his Web site each month, but despite its popularity, he is modest.

"I still don't think of this as a big deal," he said.

Jack Dorsey believes otherwise. When he moved to St. Louis a year ago from San Francisco, Dorsey created his own version of Craigslist because the city lacked one of its own. Dorsey, 27, said he will probably direct his site, www.saintlist.com, to the real thing.

"It was a temporary holder until we got one," said the Soulard resident, who used Craigslist in San Francisco to find an apartment and post job listings for his software company.

"It's pretty open to however the community wants to use it," he said. "I think it's great for the profile of the city because it says that we have the wherewithal to keep up with an online community that large."

Milton, whose commission is charged with making St. Louis attractive to visitors, said the addition of Craigslist provides more validation of the city's worth.

"We work all day to try to tell people how cool and hip it is here. If this helps, we're really glad for it," she said. "If it connects more people to us, it's a good thing."