Craigslist Founder Talks About Open Source, Banner Ads

In a candid discussion of his classified ads site and its business model, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark said today he has considered open-sourcing some Craiglist technology, frowns upon banner ads, and believes the site's impact on newspaper ad sales is exaggerated.

Speaking at the WebGuild Web 2.0 Conference & Expo in Santa Clara, Calif. today, Newmark detailed how the site began as a simple events list in 1995 and evolved into a real company in 1999. Now, the site has grown to one that experienced 9 billion hits per month prior to the recent holiday season. Craigslist is run on Suse Linux, Apache, and MySQL, Newmark said.

Open Source?

Pondering Craigslist's open-source plans, Newmark said the company has considered open-sourcing some of its caching technology but said staffing issues have prevented this from happening; the company has 25 employees.

Asked the benefit of such a contribution, Newmark cited benevolence. "I don't know [the specific benefits], but it feels in the right neighborly spirit," he said.

Craigslist, he said, has been successful because it has built a culture of trust working with people. The company makes money by charging for job postings in 11 cities and for apartment listings in one city. But the company has declined to do banner ads, said Newmark. He added he already makes enough money.

"Banner ads are often kind of dumb, and they slow the site down. I'm not interested," he said.

Newmark recognized that the site has affected newspaper classified advertising, but he stressed that the impact has been greatly exaggerated. "I figure the biggest problems newspapers have these days have to do with fact-checking," said Newmark.

Craigslist is growing, he said. "We are helping out lots of people, probably in the tens of millions. We need to be prepared for that growth," Newmark said. The company must improve its software and get new servers, he said.

Newmark's own role has evolved from being the founder writing code to doing customer service, he said. "I haven't written code since the end of 1999. It makes me sad," said Newmark.

Also at the conference, Gil Penchina, CEO of Wikia.com, which is community site supporting development of wikis, cited the company's open source search efforts with its Wikia Search project. The project currently is in an alpha stage of development.

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