SAN FRANCISCO — OK, there’s the 12 billion page views per month and more than 30 million users per month, the blog report that the 26-employee company could be worth $5 billion, and the hundreds of markets in the United States and abroad where the company operates community Web sites.
But the founder of this craigslist.org empire is still quite humble about his full-grown Web baby, which he launched as an e-mail list of San Francisco events in 1995.
"There’s nothing I feel noble or altruistic or pious about here," said Craig Newmark, the Craig behind craigslist. When he heard a report (see Inman News) on how much the company might be worth if it was sold, Newmark said, "It felt flattering for a moment — then I had to go back to work."
Newmark took the stage Wednesday during the annual Real Estate Connect conference. The conference ends Friday.
Regarding a lawsuit filed by eBay in April (see Inman News), Newmark said, "My lawyer has pre-spanked me regarding the entirety of the thing." EBay in 2004 bought a 28 percent minority interest in craigslist from a former executive, and is charging that the company took actions to dilute eBay’s economic interest in the company.
Craigslist responded in a blog post, "Tainted Love": "We are surprised and disappointed by Ebay’s unfounded allegations, which came to us out of the blue, without any attempt to engage in a dialogue with us."
Newmark said that spam at the site poses a constant challenge, and the company is working to develop better tools to identify and prevent spam.
He also addressed an audience question about possible limitations in the use of flashy html-based ads (see Inman News) at the site, noting that there are sometimes widely varying views among the site’s users, which include proponents of the site’s bare-bones, text-based interface and those who favor more colorful features.
Feedback from site users is what prompts changes at the site, he said, and there hasn’t been a decision yet on the use of html in postings.
Newmark referenced a famous Winston Churchill quote in his response: "No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
Craigslist sites are available for about 567 areas around the world, and in six languages, Newmark said. The languages are mostly European, and he said he’d like to see translations for the site into Arabic and Hebrew.
He is interested in various efforts that promote investigative journalism and participatory governance, and he has served as a board member for Sunlight Foundation, a group formed in 2006 that seeks to harness the power of the Internet in offering more accessible information about the federal government. He mentioned sites such as NewsTrust.net and FactCheck.org.
Craigslist successfully fended off a challenge from a Chicago lawyers’ group that questioned whether the site ran afoul of federal housing discrimination law in failing to prevent posts at the site, and Newmark noted that there are specific federal protections for craigslist and other online companies. "If you run a Web site which is a platform for other people to talk, then you’re not held responsible for everything they say."
He added, "The trend, the culture of the Internet, is for openness. (It) has become everyone’s printing press and we don’t want to screw that up."
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