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Craig Newmark, Craigslist Founder

Craig Newmark, Craigslist Founder

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Published by Darren Gluckman
He made Craigslist, which connects people to people and things. But he's not so into things himself. Or people, for that matter.
He made Craigslist, which connects people to people and things. But he's not so into things himself. Or people, for that matter.

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Published by: Darren Gluckman on Apr 30, 2012
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04/16/2013

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craig’s list
Craig Newmark
created one o the mostpopular websites on earth.Now he’s on a missionto fgure out what it all means.
By Darren Gluckman
raig Newmark—whohas brushed shoul-ders with Steve Jobs and LeonardCohen, and discussed the videogame Angry Birds with
 Mad  Men
star Jon Hamm—is not a people person. Te morning wespeak, he has risen early to en-sure that the dog ood he keepsin his home is o the oor. Acontractor is coming, with a bigchocolate lab who knows whereCraig keeps the canine chow, andCraig—who doesn’t have a doghimsel—doesn’t want the poochtearing into it and making a messo things. Why would a non-dogowner keep dog ood?“My deal is that the neighbor-hood dogs know that I carry treats or them,” he explains. Anddogs aren’t the only beneciarieso his largesse. “I live on the edgeo a orested area in town. I havebird eeders up, birdbaths. I’vedone a lot o bird photography. Ido most o my work at home, sothey come around, and it’s kindo un watching the birds andsquirrels.” It’s tting, perhaps,that someone who has describedhimsel as “socially inept” and “ahardwired nerd with symptomsthat I’m told border on Asperger’ssyndrome” communes so avidly  with animals. People, though, are
C
126
lifestyles magazinenew year 2012
 
Profile
Craig Newmark 
127
lifestyles magazinenew year 2012
Photo by StePhanie CanCiello
another story. He can
simulate
social skills, he says. “I cando that or an hour, maybe two, but that’s tops.”So, there may be some irony in the act that Craig (itseems wrong to reer to such an accomplished eponymistas “Newmark”), with his aversion to interpersonal con-nection, has over 120,000 “riends” on Facebook and is theounder o a wildly successul business whose mission andoperational essence is ostering human connections—social,commercial, and otherwise. Tat business, craigslist.org,generates over 20 billion (that’s right,
billion
) page views per month and is the seventh-most-visited English lan-guage website in the world. Not bad or someone with alimited social skill set.In act, this deciency—and the challenges it posedearly on—may lie at the root o his success. In a conversa-tion intended to promote his new philanthropic venture,craigconnects.org, Craig explains that his driving ethos was born o an adolescent sense o social exclusion. “Inhigh school, I elt let out, disenranchised.” He sought sol-ace in his identity as a uniormed nerd. “I really did wear a plastic pocket protector,” he insists, along with “thick black glasses. And at two points when the glasses had broken, Itaped them together while waiting or new rames. So thisis not an exaggeration in any manner.” Ater school, instead o hanging out with other kids, he would go home and “read science ction and eat choco-late chip cookies with milk.” Te plastic pocket protec-tor wasn’t just protecting against leaks, it was a deenseagainst loneliness, a retreat into an identity that madesense o isolation. “I remember what that elt like,” he says,“and that motivates me to be as inclusive as possible.”Inclusiveness is at the core o craigslist’s suite o local,user-driven, ad-ree services, most o which are withoutcharge, and through which you may og your used 17' ca-noe (“NO SEAWORHY”), seek an incense-tolerant veg-an roommate or your split-level one-and-a-hal-bedroomsubterranean, or oer your “grease monkey” services todespondent lemon drivers. Community listings includeclasses in “how to get your ex back,” and discussion boards permitting spirited debates on atheism, haikus, and whatconstitutes the proper equipment or an “emergency wed-ding kit.”Notwithstanding the .org, and the company’s proessed pride in its “non-commercial nature, public service mis-sion, and non-corporate culture,” it is, in act, a corpora-tion and makes a sizeable prot, though arguably muchless than i it allowed advertising. Its revenues, chiey de-rived rom charges or job listings and real estate postingsin certain markets, are estimated to be in the range o $100million annually. Yet or all its eel-goodness, the business has aced criti-cism. It has been accused o imperiling the existence o lo-cal newspapers, which rely on local classied ads or thebulk o their revenue. Craig counters that, in any event,many o the ree listings on craigslist would never havebeen put out in local papers in the rst place, given thecost and the process involved in doing so. O course, thenewspaper business in general has been hard-hit by theInternet, and it would be churlish to assign much blameto craigslist or the challenges aced by traditional printmedia. And the company received adverse attention in2009 ater an American medical student, Philip Marko, was alleged to have robbed several women and killed oneo them, ater arranging or escort or “erotic” servicesthrough craigslist. In the short-lived media hailstorm thatollowed, the company resisted pressures to remove orsanitize its “Casual Encounters” section.Craig ounded the business in 1995, developing it out o 
 
Profile
Craig Newmark 
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lifestyles magazinenew year 2012
Photo by Jeff Chiu/aP Photo
an inormal e-mail list o regular goings-on in San Francis-co, where he still lives, and where he then worked or IBM.But despite being the ounder and chairman o craigslist’sboard, he has no day-to-day management role. Instead—and with a startling degree o humility and sel-awareness,especially or a high-achieving tech-rm ounder—his role within craigslist (apart rom occasional board-related du-ties) is that o a plain ol’ customer service rep, dealing withquotidian user issues as they arise and executing search-and-destroy missions targeting scammers and spammers.He reports not to the CEO but to the manager o customerservice.Craig appointed the current CEO, Jim Buckmaster, in2000, “because people helped me understand that my management skills are limited, which is to say I learnedthat as a manager, I suck. I didn’t have the patience or de-tail. Regarding interviewing new people, that’s an intense-ly social activity and I just wasn’t good at it. I am a really good customer service rep, so that’s what I do.”But Craig isn’t here to discuss craigslist, which, with localiterations on every continent save Antarctica, doesn’t needtalking up. His publicist chimes in to nudge us o craigslistand on to craigconnects, Craig’srelatively new online venture aimedsquarely at social philanthropy. Itsslogan—“Connecting the world orthe common good”—expresses its purpose clearly enough, but how it intends to achieve global philan-thropic connectivity remains un-clear, perhaps even to Craig. “In thelong range, let’s say over 20 years, I’dlike to gure out how to get every-one in the world connected or ev-eryone’s individual idea o what thecommon good is.”In the meantime, the organiza-tions eatured on the site includethose that evaluate the account-ability and nancial transparency o nonprots, encourage micro-nance loans or those without ac-cess to traditional banking systems, promote open government initia-tives, and support military amiliesand veterans.Tis last cause resonates on an in-timate level. His ather served in the Pacic in World WarII. “He was a sergeant with a specialty in blowing thingsup.” Stateside, in Morristown, New Jersey, where Craig wasraised, his ather sold insurance and meat (not simulta-neously). He was a heavy smoker who died o lung cancer when Craig was 13. “I don’t have a good grip on how thataected me,” he says, though his commitment to veterans’aairs and his support or military amilies may be a prod-uct o that boyhood trauma.Some details about a tech titan’s tech:BlackBerry or iPhone? “Neither: I use Android-style phones. It’s open. I like the use o alternative browsers andkeyboards. I’m using a Motorola Droid Bionic. But tonightthe Google Nexus Prime will be announced, and I have aeeling I’ll do what I can to get one o those.” What about your desktop setup? “A MacBook Air 11-inch. It’s hookedup to a big screen. But the deal is when I’m on the road, I want the smallest notebook I can carry. I don’t do heavy-duty stu on my desk, so I don’t need a ancy system.”He’s an icon, but doesn’t hobnob with his ellows.“I don’t really hang out with the big guys,” he says. “Espe-cially given my work in customer service, I tend to identiy 
C CeO J Buck h nk.

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